In 1975, twenty-three-year-old Englishman Tom Michell follows his wanderlust to Argentina, where he becomes assistant master at a prestigious boarding school. Read more...
In 1975, twenty-three-year-old Englishman Tom Michell follows his wanderlust to Argentina, where he becomes assistant master at a prestigious boarding school. But Michell s adventures really begin when, on a weekend in Uruguay, he rescues a penguin covered in oil from an ocean spill, cleans the bird up, and attempts to return him to the sea. The penguin refuses to leave his rescuer s side. That was the moment at which he became my penguin, and whatever the future held, we d face it together, says Michell in this charming memoir.
Michell names the penguin Juan Salvador ( John Saved ), but Juan Salvador, as it turns out, is the one who saves Michell.
After Michell smuggles the bird back to Argentina and into his campus apartment, word spreads about the young Englishman s unusual roommate. Juan Salvador is suddenly the center of attention as mascot of the rugby team, confidant to the dorm housekeeper, co-host of Michell s parties, and an unprecedented swimming coach to a shy boy. Even through the collapse of the Peronist government and amid the country s economic and political strife, Juan Salvador brings joy to everyone around him especially Michell, who considers the affectionate animal a compadre and kindred spirit.
Witty and heartwarming, "The Penguin Lessons" is a classic in the making, a story that is both absurd and wonderful, exactly like Juan Salvador.
Praise for "The Penguin Lessons"
I loved this book, and you will, too It s as charming, heartwarming, and surprising as a penguin on a roof terrace. What s more, "The Penguin Lessons" teaches an important truth: that a single act of compassion can be repaid a thousand-fold. Sy Montgomery, author of "The Good Good Pig "and the National Book Award finalist" The Soul of an Octopus"
Tom Michell s] tone suits the material perfectly. . . . You believe every word. . . . No fool, this penguin. No fools, these publishers, who have unleashed such a delightful and charming book just in time for Christmas. "Daily Mail "(U.K.)
Heart-warming is a wholly inadequate phrase to describe this captivating story that is pure delight from beginning to end. "The Bookseller "(U.K.)"
Publishers Weekly® Reviews
- Reviewed in: Publishers Weekly, page .
- Review Date: 2015-11-16
- Reviewer: Staff
In this lively and endearing memoir, Britain-born Michell narrates an unexpected encounter on a Uruguayan sojourn in the 1970s, and its surprising consequences. The 23-year-old Michell is en route to his position as an English teacher at a boarding school in Argentina when he happens upon a beach littered with thousands of migrating Magellanic penguins that had been felled by an oil slick dumped at sea. Sickened by the devastating spectacle, Michell decides to save the life of the lone living penguin. He transports the "tar-sodden" bird back to his temporary apartments, where, undeterred by the frightened creature's nasty bite, he manages to clean his captive. In one of many miraculous moments, the penguin swiftly realizes that Michell is attempting to save him. Michelle names him Juan Salvado, John Saved, but also Juan Salvador, John Savior, because of his redemptive qualities. In clever, entertaining vignettes accompanied by simple yet engaging illustrations, Michell recalls secretly transporting Juan on a bus, nervously sneaking him through customs during a chaotic period in Argentina's history, and introducing the bird to a community of 300 boys and school personnel, where he becomes the rugby team mascot, an acrobatic (non-chlorinated) pool swimmer, and a beloved confidante to many who delight in feeding him sprats. Michell, now a grandfather living in Cornwall, interweaves introspection, travel tales, and penguin facts in a charming story that also reveals the charismatic nature of this gregarious and increasingly endangered species. (Oct.)