Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Think Penguins

     Looking for a fun book to add to your reading program? 

     Think penguins.

     Recently, these unusual birds have gained acclaim as movie stars, but more than 70 years ago they took the lead in Richard and Florence Atwater’s Mr. Popper’s Penguins.  This 1939 Newbery Honor Book (appropriate for 4th and 5th graders) chronicles the story of Mr. Popper’s humorously tangled relationship with his pet penguins.  As Mr. Popper soon realizes, pets come with life-changing attachments. 

     Captain Cook, the first penguin, captivates the Poppers and stirs up trouble with a workman, a policeman, the license bureau, and the neighborhood in general.  The bird’s bachelorhood depression sends Mr. Popper on a match-making mission.  Enter Greta, the second penguin. Left to their own vices, Greta and Captain Cook produce ten offspring.  Mr. Popper’s penguin population explodes to an even dozen.

    Providing appropriate living conditions quickly becomes an issue in the Popper household.  First it’s the icebox, then it’s the whole house opened to the winter’s cold, snow, and ice.  Finally, Mr. Popper converts the basement into a frozen penguin habitat.  All the while, the penguins are eating the Poppers out of house and home. Broke and juggling bill collectors, Mr. Popper finds an ingenious way for the penguins to pay for their own upkeep.

     Show business!    Yes, performing penguins. 

     Students will enjoy comparing their pet experiences to those of the Poppers. The book’s 1930s setting, with the era’s communication, entertainment, and transportation methods playing prominent background roles, provides many teachable moments.  Mr. Popper writes letters and waits for an answer.  Unbelievable!

     In June 2011, 20th Century Fox released Mr. Popper’s Penguins as a film and ran straight into the Common Core Standard which states that teachers should compare books with their commercial entertainment counterparts.  Thank you!

     Go to this internet site for some interesting facts about penguins.  Download my free Mr. Popper’s Penguins graphic organizer.  Check out the Mr. Popper’s Penguins Objective Tests Teaching Pack available from Taking Grades.

     Are you thinking penguins yet? 

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