Parents' Guide to

Mr. Popper's Penguins

By Pam Gelman, Common Sense Media Reviewer

age 6+

1939 Newbery Honor book is both tender and funny.

Mr. Popper's Penguins Poster Image

A Lot or a Little?

What you will—and won't—find in this book.

Community Reviews

age 6+

Based on 2 parent reviews

age 6+

Was a captivating read a loud for my kids

My 7 year old loved this book. The chapters where short and perfect to hold his attention. It gave us lots of talking points. How the time frame of when the book was written is different from today. How family’s are different now, how clothes where different, how accessing knowledge was different (in the book no one knew about penguins vs every one knows today). It didn’t have any questionable mortality issues. However if you view Traditional female/male gender roles an issue you might want to talk to your kids about that too. There’s lots of comments about Mrs potter being a tidy house keeper or her only concern being cleaning. However there were lots of funny parts and written really well for children to understand.
age 6+

Mr. Popper: neglectful father and husband

Originally written in 1938, the family values are a hundred years out of date. There are many reviews on Goodreads that go over this problem, as well as talk about the issue of him introducing penguins to the arctic (since nobody was thinking about this in the old days, invasive species are a massive problem now). I've only read the first two chapters, then skipped to the end. Here's what I found: -Mrs. Popper laments that since Mr. Popper is off work for the winter, there won't be enough money to feed the family ("beans every night," "would there really be enough beans to last?"), but Mr. Popper "was not worried." -Mrs. Popper says to him, "It will be very nice to have you at home for a vacation, of course, but it is a little hard to sweep with a man sitting around reading all day." -When she is talking when he wants to turn on the radio, he "command[s]" her to "Sh!" That's enough for me to lose interest in reading this to my impressionable kids. -In the final chapter he leaves for "a year or two" to explore, and his wife says, "I'll miss you very much, my dear. But we have money to live on for a few years. And in winter it will be much easier to keep the house tidy without a man sitting around all day." His kids say only, "Good-by and good luck!" and he says nothing back, just waves and heads out of sight. Good riddance, looks like they're better off without him.

Is It Any Good?

Our review:
Parents say (2 ):
Kids say (8 ):

MR. POPPER'S PENGUINS is one of those classic childhood books that kids always remember. The chapter book's witty dialogue (albeit with dated language), clever characters, and an ethical predicament make this book as enjoyable today as in the 1930s. Many teachers today use it as part of their language arts curriculum. Mr. Poppers Penguins is a good fit for most first- and second-grade readers, and can be read aloud to kindergartners.

Though the book was written in 1938, Mr. Popper was ahead of his time for progressive parenting, letting his kids leave school to help him take the penguin act on the road. He also treats his wife with respect, giving her voice equal status in the household. Kids will see through this funny, quirky man that learning never stops, and sometimes, by asking questions, great things happen. Mirroring the partnership of Mr. and Mrs. Popper, Richard Atwater got sick and was unable to finish the book, so his wife, Florence, picked up where he left off.

Book Details

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