Illinois State Library

Illinois Center for the Book

Individual Author Record

General Information

Name:  Richard Tupper Atwater  

Pen Name: Richard Atwater, Riq, Frederick Mund Atwater


Audience: Children;

Born: Dec 29, 1892 in Chicago, Illinois

Died: August 21, 1948 in Downey, Wisconsin

-- Richard Atwater on WorldCat --

Illinois Connection

Atwater was born and raised in Chicago. He attended the University of Chicago, 1907-17 and graduated with an Associate in Arts in 1909 and a B. A. (honors) in Greek in 1910. He taught at the University of Chicago, was a columnist for the Chicago Tribune, Chicago Evening Post (as "Riq"), and Chicago Daily News.

Biographical and Professional Information

Born Frederick Mund Atwater, Atwater had his name legally changed in 1913 to Richard Tupper Atwater.After graduating from the University of Chicago in 1910, Atwater stayed on seven years as a graduate student and teacher in Greek studies. During this time, he also worked with the university's drama club in different ways including writing a play for them. He was also an occasional contributing columnist for the ''Chicago Tribune''. He left the University in 1917 and served in the US Army at the end of World War I. After coming home, he joined the ''Chicago Evening Post'' and wrote a column under the pseudonym ''Riq''. He wrote his first book in 1925 - ''Rickety Rimes of Riq.'' It was a collection of verse from his column. After moving to the ''Chicago Daily News'', Atwater continued to publish his ''Riq'' column. Atwater's first children's book was ''Doris and the Trolls.'' He also translated the ''Secret History of Procopius'' which was published in 1927 as well as an operetta, ''The King's Sneezes'', 1933. During this time, the Atwater family watched a documentary film about the Byrd Antarctic expedition. This film left an impression on Atwater and when one of his two daughters complained about how many history books she was having to read, he set out to write a fantasy tale about penguins as a counterpoint. He completed the manuscript and it was much enjoyed by his daughters but he set it aside, not happy with it in its final form.During this time, Atwater saw a documentary film about the Byrd Antarctic expedition. The film left an impression on him and when one of his two daughters complained about how many history books she was having to read, he wrote a fantasy tale about penguins as a counterpoint. While he completed the manuscript and it was enjoyed by his daughters, he was not happy with it in its final form.In 1934, Mr. Atwater suffered a stroke and, though he survived till 1948, he never recovered sufficiently to write again. To help support the family, Florence Atwater wrote a number of articles for the New Yorker and The Atlantic. Looking for ways to make additional income she went back to Atwater's original manuscript and took it to a couple of publishers. Both rejected it. She reviewed the script and rewrote the beginning and the end, counterbalancing the fantasy manuscript with a story line that accentuated practical consequences. This revised version, illustrated by the Robert Lawson, received a much more positive reception from publishers and Mr. Popper's Penguins was published in 1938 to immediate acclaim. It won a 1939 Newberry Honor and has been in print ever since.

Published Works

  • Rickety Rimes of Riq, Ballou, 1925
  • Doris and the Trolls, Rand McNally, 1931
  • The King's Sneezes, H. FitzSimons, 1933
  • Mr. Popper's Penguins, Little Brown, 1938 - written with his wife, Florence

Selected Titles At Your Library

Mr. Popper's penguins /
ISBN: 0316058432. OCLC Number:

. .

The unexpected delivery of a large crate containing an Antarctic penguin changes the life and fortunes of Mr. Popper, a house painter obsessed by dreams of the Polar regions.


Mr. Popper's Penguins

  • Newbery Honor Book, American Library Association, 1939
  • Young Reader's Choice Award, Pacific Northwest Library Association, 1941
  • Lewis Carroll Shelf Award
  • New York Public Library's 100 Great Children's Books/100 Years