Just try to name another bird that kids are more into than the penguin. I personally think it is because they are earthbound, so they don’t fly away like the seagulls I always see kids chasing at the beach or the nasty pigeons I see kids chasing at the park. They are an aviary anomaly, a bird that can swim but can’t fly! And if you believe Happy Feet, they can dance too.
But before March of the Penguins or Surf’s Up, there was Mr. Popper’s Penguins, a book about a guy who receives a penguin in the mail as a gift from an Antarctic explorer (awesome!) and a second penguin in the mail from an aquarium (double awesome!). When the two penguins start breeding at an unnatural rate and the Poppers have to pay their bills, Mr. Popper takes his 12 penguins on the road as a circus act. He eventually ends up in a NYC jail because of the ruckus the penguins cause. Luckily, Admiral Drake, the explorer who sent the original penguin, is there to bail Mr. Popper out and take him and his penguins to the South Pole, leaving the rest of the Popper family behind.
Animal exploitation, biological impossibilities and family abandonment aside, this was one of my very favorite books when I was a kid. And now it is going to be made into a movie starring Jim Carrey and some occasionally CGI, occasionally real penguins. I’m nervous about seeing this modernized film version and definitely won’t pay to see it in theaters, but I’ll likely pick it up from the library when it comes out on DVD. Hopefully it doesn’t break my heart!