Children's Literature @ NYPL
Reading in a Winter Wonderland
Right before the first snowflakes fell on the streets of NYC this winter, I was walking along Fifth Avenue and came upon a production set. No matter how long I've lived in the city, this still provides a little thrill. The street was slick, and "snow" piled along the sidewalks. Twinkle lights glowed. It created quite the magical scene. I always check the brightly colored notices to figure out what's going on, and actually squealed when I realized the set was for the movie version of the long beloved children’s book Mr. Popper's Penguins by Richard and Florence Atwater. The squeal surprised me, as, up until that point, I was a little shy to admit that this children's librarian had yet to read Mr. Popper's Penguins... Shocking, I know.
So, the next morning at work, I immediately checked the shelves for a copy. Fortunately, one was available, and I curled up that night with a classic.
First and foremost, Mr. Popper is a dreamer. By day, and in the warmer months, he's a house painter who in his spare time lets his mind wander to distant places, specifically the Poles. How he wishes he had had a chance to experience them firsthand, but instead, he immerses himself with information on all things polar from anywhere he can get it, including the library. Smart man.
Mr. Popper sends a letter to Admiral Drake, an explorer in the Antarctic. Drake thanks him for the letter in a pretty amazing way... he sends Mr. Popper a penguin straight from Antarctica! As you can imagine, this changes Mr. Popper's life, as well as the lives of his wife and children, forever. Laughs ensue as the family first works together to figure out how to make their home penguin proof (for, eventually, 12 penguins!) and then takes the fun on the road.
First published in 1938, Mr. Popper's Penguins is timeless. It's endearing and is a perfect family read aloud. Like Mr. Popper himself, head to your local library soon. While there, take a look at the penguin section (J 598.47).