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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 Perónist 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.

©2015 Tom Michell (P)2015 Random House Audio

What members say

Average Customer Ratings

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  • Overall
    3 out of 5 stars
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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

3 of 3 people found this review helpful

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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.

3 of 3 people found this review helpful

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Outstanding

This is a remarkable story of a country, a man, and a penguin. I to spent my early adult years in this vibrant country. The author brought back memories that are 40 years gone. Thank you for sharing your story. I to have a story that may in the future be told. Others not privy to this life adventure may have their own memories dusted off ready for remembering. Thank you.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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Thank you

Thank you, Tom Michell and Bill Nighy for bringing Juan Salvado to us so perfectly.

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Fantastic story

If you had told me I would give a book about penguins five stars, I would have told you you were crazy, but this one earned every one of them. So lighthearted in parts I laughed out loud and so touching in others I cried. The narrator did a superb job. I highly recommend this story.

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Unusual and touching story

This is the true story of an unexpected companionship and what it taught the author. It has a dry British sense of humor which comes through in the narration. It could be make a good movie.

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sweet story

It was a nice, sweet story if you're looking for something light to read/ listen to. Had some funny & interesting parts as well. enjoyed the narrator.

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Fantastic Penguin

The story line was exceptional and the narration was superb. I, like the author, wish that there would have been actual videos of this bird eating fish, serving as a mascot, or going up and down stairs. Was the author an English teacher at the school? Definitely the best book that I have listened to in a long time. Love that penguin!! Bravo!

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  • Anita
  • PORTLAND, OR, United States
  • 01-19-16

I want a penguin!

Not a huge animal story fan - but this is one terrific story! Tom Michell and I are about the same age and I vaguely remembered stories of oil soaked penguins washing up many places. Knowing that there were people out there saving these adorable animals made me feel much better. I like to think that if I were in the same position, I would have had the the chutzpa to take one home with me. I fell in love with this little guy from the first. What's not to love about a creature who just wants to be, "one of the guys"?

Bill Nighy's narration is spot on. I can hardly wait to find more he has read, to listen to.

1 of 3 people found this review helpful