The Penguin Lessons by Tom Michell has been released just in time for the holidays and would make the perfect gift for all the book lovers on your gift list. This fun read is full of smart, poignant and moving experiences that will draw readers right into the world created with deft precision by Mr. Mitchell.
Described as a real-life Mr. Popper’s Penguins meets Dead Poets Society, this tale describes the events in the life of 23-yr-old Tom Michell who travels to Argentina to become an assistant master at a prestigious boarding school. Were his experiences at the school the only subject, this book might be deemed boring by many readers. However, by chance, enroute to Argentina, Mr. Michell happens to find a penguin stuck in an oil slick off the coast of Uruguay. Of course, he saves the penguin, cleans him up and tries to release him back into his natural habitat. But, oddly enough, the penguin refuses to leave his rescuer. What else could he do but continue on to the boarding school, smuggling the penguin across the Argentinian border with him?
This sweet little penguin, named Juan Salvador by Mr. Michell, quickly becomes very popular at the boarding school – he’s the team mascot, a wise confidant, expert swimming coach, among other roles both big and small. Set against a tumultuous time in Argentina’s history, which included the collapse of the Perónist government as well as economic and political strife little Juan Salvador brought so much joy into the lives of Mr. Michell and the students who attended the boarding school.
Through their many adventures, together and apart, this unlikely friendship was an unexpectedly emotional experience for me to read. I couldn’t read it in bed post-sleep as is my custom, because I couldn’t help but laugh (and occasionally cry) as I consumed the words before me. It’s not every day that a book moves me so very much as this one and I don’t want to spoil the experience for everyone, so I will not be giving away any spoilers about how the book progresses toward its conclusion. I will just say that, at this time of year, as we all begin to ponder humanity’s infinite kindness and inevitable cruelty, our place in this life, and the meaning of love and friendship. This novel will tug at your heartstrings. Snuggle down, get a cup of cocoa and prepare yourself to be transported through time and space and share in the joy of Juan Salvadore, the wonderful man who saved this creature from a tortuous fate and how it changed both lives in the process.
The Penguin Lessons is Tom Michell’s first book, written at the tender age of sixty-four. And I would like to personally thank him so very much for it. It touched my soul in a way that I will not soon forget. I bow in eternal respect to you, Mr. Michell.
Before I go, the book geek in me must comment on the binding of this wonderful book. I just love binding that reminds me of old books, those that were hand-bound versus the very efficient and smooth machine binding that we are more familiar with. Somehow, this old-school look makes the book that much more precious to me. Anyone who truly loves books will understand.
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Disclaimer: A free copy of this book was received for purposes of review. No other compensation was received. All opinions are 100% my own.
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