Narrator: Bill Nighy
Length: 6 hours 6 minutes
Published by Random House Audio
on October 27, 2015
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.
Okay, I admit it. I picked this book for the cover. So sue me. In my defense, LOOK at that cover. Is there anything cuter than a penguin wearing a long scarf? Okay, I could probably go for an owl or a fox wearing a long scarf, or a Doctor (wink), but not many animals, or people, can pull off this look.
Judging by the cover, I was expecting a sweet, slightly whimsical, and completely charming story of a man and his penguin. I got all of that. But I also got so much more, for during the time Michell owned his pet penguin, he lived in Argentina and it was an Argentina in turmoil. It is the post-Perón years and it is a time period I absolutely knew nothing about. So, intermingled with adorable stories of a penguin who rules a boarding school in Argentina are stories of coups and all the problems of living in an impoverished country where violence, deprivation, and uncertainty run rampant.
Now really. Is there a better way to learn some history about a time period and place you know little about? Surround any history lesson with stories of a cute penguin (or an owl, fox, or octopus to name a few others) and I think one could teach anybody anything.
The absolutely icing on the cake, for me, was Bill Nighy’s narration. Yes, ole Davy Jones himself reads the book and he reads it masterfully. He can read to me, anything, anytime. Loved it.