I chose this as our February “Script-to-Screen Book Club” pick, mostly because we have the licensing to show the movie in my library. It’s also on the “Battle of the Books” list for the 3rd and 4th grade in my area, so a win-win! We’ll find out if people actually show up to the program! (Edit – they did not.)
Mr. Popper’s Penguins was first published in 1938, and it shows a bit. Mr. Popper is a house painter who doesn’t work in the winter months. He is obsessed with the Poles, and while he knows he will never get to explore the frozen arctic regions himself, he contents himself with reading and watching films about it. He sends a letter to some Antarctic explorers, and to his surprise they send him a penguin as a gift!
Throughout the story, his family learns to deal with having a new exotic pet, as well as the growing penguin family they acquire. Somehow, many people in the book don’t really know what a penguin is, which seems strange to me. They seem so mainstream now. Mr. Popper and his family make some extraordinary changes to their lives in order to accommodate the new members of their family. They make air holes in the refrigerator, they let snow in the house, and they eventually turn their basement into a penguin playground (all of which is very expensive, especially considering the fact that Mr. Popper is not bringing in any income.) They decide to take the penguins on the road to make some money. Traveling circuses were a thing, back then. The end of the book moves very quickly, which is good for a children’s book, I suppose.
While I haven’t seen the movie yet, it seems very different from the book. (Edit – it is.) Jim Carey doesn’t look like a poor painter. Mr. Popper is supposed to come from a small town, yet the movie takes place in New York. The movie entertains the idea of moving the penguins to the zoo, while the book touches on that option briefly then dismisses it. Hopefully my kids will actually read the book so we can discuss these differences!
(Edit: The movie was entertaining, and the grandmother who brought her granddaughter liked it. Neither of them had read the book. But they did check it out and take it with them!)