The Penguin Lessons

  • by Tom Michell
  • Narrated by Bill Nighy
  • 6 hrs and 6 mins
  • Unabridged Audiobook

Publisher's Summary

A unique and moving real-life story of the extraordinary bond between a young teacher and a penguin, this audiobook will delight listeners who loved Marley & Me, Dewey the Library Cat, The Good Good Pig, and any book by Jon Katz.
In 1975, 23-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. But 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, cohost of Michell's parties, and an unprecedented swimming coach to a shy boy. Even through the collapse of the PerĂ³nist 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.

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful

Terrific true story beautifully narrated .

I suffer PTSD. in order to minimize nightmares I have a book playing while I sleep. it is pretty effective if you have a good narrator and a fun story. Bill Nighy is my favorite voice to listen to. His reading this beautiful true story of an adventurous young teacher who saves the life of a penguin and then keeps him at the Argentine boarding school where he is working is truly heartwarming. This is one I can play over and over.
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- Dee Lazlo

Enjoyable!

Told in 1st person from the author's POV, there is no silly anthropomorphism. The bird doesn't talk to us, thank goodness. This mostly-true memoir is set in 1975 in South America. John Michell is a young Englishman teaching at St. George's, an Argentinian boarding school college. He rescues a small penguin from an oil slick in Uruguay, and the adorable bird bonds with him. Won't leave him. Michell names the imprinted penguin Juan Salvador (John Saved) and shares his campus housing with him. The whole school grows to love the little fellow.

Audiobook narrated superbly by the English actor Bill Nighy.

There are a few videos of this penguin posted on YouTube.

Quibbles: The tale is sometimes quite endearing, interesting, and engrossing, but there just isn't enough here for such a long book. Some scenes felt like trivial digressions, including the bar fight and his Irish professor friend. However, I liked hearing about the the landscape, the culture, the people, and the politics. Now I want to see Argentina.

If you like biographical memoirs about animals, I can personally recommend a few more:
--- The Elephant Whisperer

--- The Dog Who Could Fly: The Incredible True Story of a WWII Airman and the Four-Legged Hero Who Flew At His Side

Seabiscuit: An American Legend
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- Skipper

Book Details

  • Release Date: 10-27-2015
  • Publisher: Random House Audio