Thursday, February 04, 2016

The Penguin Lessons by Tom Michell

The Penguin Lessons

The Penguin Lessons is a heartwarming account of a young school teacher and the years he spent in the company of a small Magellanic penguin named Juan Salvador. The author, Tom Michell, now in his 60's, recounts his time as a counselor/teacher at a boarding school in Argentina in the 1970's.  On his last day in Punta del Este, the author stumbles across a beach full of oil covered penguins, the result of lax regulations at the time regarding oil freighters. One lone penguin clings to life.  Several bottles of detergent, one container of butter, and one finger nip later and a bond has been formed.  Juan is smuggled across customs and into Argentina where he lives among the boys in a boarding school teaching important life lessons and providing comedic relief along the way.

Being a penguin fanatic myself, I was very excited when I happened upon this book on a display featuring animal themed travelogues. Michell does a beautiful job of depicting the bond that exists between humans and animals while detailing the unique relationship that formed between Juan and members of the boarding school. While short in length this memoir is full humorous anecdotes, insightful details into the political and economic landscape in Argentina in the 1970's and of course fascinating facts about Juan's species.  

For other penguin lover adventures, be sure to check out Empire Antarctica: Ice, Silence, and Emperor Penguins by Gavin Francis and Fraser's Penguins: a Journey to the Future in Antarctica by Fen Montaigne.  

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