Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Mr. Popper's Penguins

Atwater, Richard and Florence. 2011. Mr. Popper's Penguins. New York: Open Road. 
(first published in 1938)
Review copy provided by NetGalley.

I checked out this 1938 classic for several reasons. The movie was just released, it's summer reading season with Newbery Medal and Honor books always in high demand at the library (I prefer to recommend what I know), and after hearing a radio interview with the founder of Open Road Media, I wanted to experience what they have to offer.

So here are my few comments on all of the above.

Fortunately or unfortunately (please tell me which) I didn't get out to see the movie (though I definitely made time for HP and the Deathly Hallows, Part 2! - it was great!).  If  you did get to see Mr. Popper's Penguins in the theater, please share your thoughts in the comments. Meanwhile, I'm waiting for the DVD.

Mr. Popper's Penguins was a Newbery Honor book in 1939. Times (and children's books) seem to have been simpler then. In my humble opinion, based upon the relatively few older Newbery titles that I've read, there is either a greater level of sophistication in the writing of today's juvenile fiction or the preferences of the esteemed librarians choosing the awards has changed much over the years.  That isn't to say newer or older books are superior, just different.

This particular version of Mr. Popper's Penguins, is an e-book published by Open Road Media. They appear to have struck upon a great idea, making classic books available digitally with enhanced content, in this case, "never-before-seen archival material from the authors' estate," or in more common parlance, period photographs of the Atwaters and brief biographical information. Open Road's offerings are available through the usual digital content providers (,, etc.).  I don't see any Open Road offerings from my library's e-book consortium, but they are listed on the publisher page, so perhaps some Open Road titles will be forthcoming via public library download.

Jane Friedman, once the CEO of Harper Collins is the CEO and Cofounder of Open Road Media, a new entry into the brave new world of e-books and digital content.  You can listen to an NPR interview with Ms. Friedman here.

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