Posted in 4 paws, nonfiction, Review on December 13, 2015

the penguin lessons


‘I was hoping against hope that the penguin would survive because as of that instant he had a name, and with his name came the beginning of a bond which would last a life-time.’

Tom Michell is in his roaring twenties: single, free-spirited and seeking adventure. He has a plane ticket to South America, a teaching position in a prestigious Argentine boarding school, and endless summer holidays. He even has a motorbike, Che Guevara style. What he doesn’t need is a pet. What he really doesn’t need is a pet penguin. Set against Argentina’s turbulent years following the collapse of the corrupt Perónist regime, this is the heart-warming story of Juan Salvador the penguin, rescued by Tom from an oil slick in Uruguay just days before a new term. When the bird refuses to leave Tom’s side, the young teacher has no choice but to smuggle it across the border, through customs, and back to school.

Whether it’s as the rugby team’s mascot, the housekeeper’s confidant, the host at Tom’s parties or the most flamboyant swimming coach in world history, Juan Salvador transforms the lives of all he meets – in particular one homesick school boy. And as for Tom, he discovers in Juan Salvador a compadre like no other… The Penguin Lessons is a unique and moving true story which has captured imaginations around the globe – for all those who dreamed as a child they might one day talk to the animals.


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I have to admit I wasn’t sure about this book when I first started reading, but a few chapters in and I was engrossed in the story of a man in the 70’s that finds a penguin that could have died from an oil spill but he manages to clean him up and earn the penguin’s trust. From there it is like they were best buds and I chuckled at the conversations he had with him because it reminded me of my conversations with my dogs!

The story itself is more than just his life with this penguin, but it was also the life lessons learned from having Juan Salvadore (the penguin) around and what he also taught to the young men at the boarding school.

This is a heartwarming story, one that I think anyone would enjoy. you also get a peek into the culture and history of Argentina and the towns around where he was teaching. This was also the time around the Peron’s power and so there is a bit of history thrown in too.

We give this 4 paws up.  It is a good story, so pick it up if you get a chance.


About the Author

TOM MICHELL was born and grew up on the rural downs of southern England, where he grew to love animals, birds and plants. After living in Argentina he returned home and settled in Cornwall where he helps with the family business, tends a small plot of what he calls ‘good Cornish soil’ and sings with a local choir. He is an amateur artist and in his spare time he draws and paints subjects from the wildlife around his home, specializing in birds of prey. Tom is an enthusiastic proponent of understanding how humans can live in genuinely sustainable ways. He is married with four grown-up children and three grandchildren.