Noodles & Albie Book Review

August 30, 2014

By TINKY WEISBLAT for the Greenfield Recorder

“Noodles & Albie” by Eric Bennett, Illustrations by Liz Bannish (Small Batch Books, 32 pages, $17.95)

Children’s books need story, information, humor and illustrations. “Noodles & Albie” puts all of those factors to good use in the tale of an Antarctic penguin who enjoys his first ocean adventure — and the fish who becomes his best friend.

Noodles is an emperor penguin who has never learned to swim. His parents warn him that if he doesn’t start getting around in the water by the time the sun sets over Antarctica for the year, he will be left behind when his penguin colony swims out to sea in the following spring.

Although he is still scared of the water, Noodles makes his way into the ocean on the final day of sunlight — and takes to it like a duck (or rather a penguin) to water.

Unfortunately, he has such a good time swimming that he loses track of his fellow penguins. Soon, he realizes that he has no idea how to get back to the penguin colony.

He asks a number of sea creatures how to find his way home, but they are preoccupied with their own lives and have no idea how to steer him safely to his parents.

As twilight falls, Noodles begins to despair of ever returning to his home and family. Fortunately, he is accosted by a small, colorful fish named Albie who knows the region’s geography “like the back of (her) fin.” She manages to lead him where he needs to go — and out of the path of a ravenous leopard seal.

Noodles spends the winter maturing and planning the trip to sea with his fellow penguins. He doesn’t forget Albie, however, and never loses hope that he will see her again.

“Noodles & Albie” is a charming story of making friends and conquering fear. Eric Bennett, who lives in Northampton, is a longtime penguin fan who has told a version of this story to his young daughters. Bennett ran a penguin-themed gift shop in New York City for years; it is now an online presence called PenguinGiftShop.com.

Liz Bannish, also of Northampton, makes Noodles, Albie, and their worlds colorful and attractive in her watercolor illustrations. The book would be a wonderful gift for an animal- or fish-loving child.

As a bonus, the book includes a “Noodles & Albie Q & A” that addresses questions children may have about penguins in general and Noodles in particular.

World Eye reading Sept. 6

Bennett and Bannish will read from “Noodles & Albie” at the World Eye Bookshop on Saturday, Sept. 6, from 11 a.m. to noon. A stuffed penguin will be given to purchasers of the book — and a prize will be given to the child who performs the best penguin walk.

Bennett Front Cover

 

Noodles & Albie Debut Reading and Penguin Party

August 29, 2014

To say our Noodles & Albie launch party / event / reading / slideshow at the White Square Bookshop was a success last week is like saying penguins are cute.  It was and they are, but it was so much more.  This being our first book and our first book public event made it unforgettable.  On the way to the White Square to set up that Sunday morning my daughter Sophie tried to keep me even keeled by saying, “Ya know dad, don’t get all bent out of shape if only five people show up”.  She had noticed that I had packed our little car with 30 of everything.  30 penguin goodie bags, enough penguin cheese crackers and peachy penguin gummies for a school outing,  a nice size box penguin prizes for the various contests we were to run, 30 plush penguins to give out with the books, and a case of 30 Noodles & Albie books.  

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I pondered what to wear and at first I wore a dress shirt with a penguin tie, jeans and sneakers trying to channel that unique hipster-doofus children’s author persona, but both my kids immediately vetoed it, and unanimously encouraged me to don a new Chilly Willy t-shirt and baseball hat.  I wisely followed their sage advice.  So with my little VW Beetle packed to the gills with boxes of penguins and two kids we set off and of course we arrived absurdly early.  I put Sophie and Rose to work making 30 snack cups of penguin crackers and gummies.  We then set out baskets of the penguin goodie bags, the fun multiple choice penguin quiz  sheets I made up,  Eileen, the owner of White Square, made a cooler of blue colored Penguin Polar Punch with marshmallows floating on the top to simulate mini icebergs (very clever Eileen).  Sophie wrote up some signage, “Penguin Goodie Bags, One Per Kid”, and  “Take Our Penguin Quiz: Win Prizes”.  We were done in 20 minutes, and so to keep my kids from destroying the bookstore with an hour to go before the reading we waddled down the road to Mt. Tom’s Ice Cream Parlor.  Every once in while I’d walk over to White Square to see if anyone had shown up, and soon a couple of friends, then a fan showed up, then Liz and her family entourage.  This was the first time I got to meet her extended clan so that was a treat.  While we were all chatting I turned around to find that the room was filling up and there was a line at the counter. Eileen was even selling books!  People who we did not know were asking Liz and I to sign the books they had just purchased!  By the time the reading was set to begin the place was packed.  I made an announcement that kids should sit upfront on the floor and adults in the back.  I climbed onto a stool with copy of Noodles & Albie in hand with Liz sitting to my left in charge of the slideshow manning the projector.  As Eileen introduced us I looked up and I could not believe how many people were there, kids and adults, friends, family and fans who had come from near and far.  I made a little speech about how the book came to be, introduced Liz, and began to read.  “After six long months of daylight, the sun was finally beginning to set on the Antarctic summer, and Noodles had not gone on his first swim…”

lizdraws

When the reading was over, there was applause and congratulations. Kind of embarrassed I immediately launched into my penguin quiz, while Liz held a “how to draw a penguin class with the kids” that was a hit.  Sophie the quiz master checked answers and gave out penguin prizes according to how many correct answers each kid got.  Then more schmoozing and signing of books.  Finally, we held our kids best waddle competition, in which Liz’s mom Nancy must get honorable mention although it was more like a prancing pup than a penguin waddle.  All told there were probably 50  people in attendance.  Liz and I sold and signed 26 books.  The event was suppose to be from 2 pm to 3 pm.  I got home a 4:30 bringing a lot less penguins up the stairs than I took down the stairs earlier that day.

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On the way home Sophie said, “Dad, I knew it was going to be o.k., but I said not to get your hopes up just in case, ya know? Because I didn’t want you to get your expectations too high and have your feelings hurt.”  “And now?”  I asked.  “You and Liz kicked butt!” she said.

Noodles & Albie Waddles On

August 15, 2014

Eric and Liz on WHMP morning show talking about Noodles & Albie

Eric and Liz on WHMP morning show talking about Noodles & Albie

Noodles & Albie is the little penguin book that could. Two weeks ago we were featured in the Springfield Republican . This week Liz and I have been interviewed by Bob Flaherty on WHMP the major radio station serving the Northampton / Amherst area, and this morning Noodles & Albie was written up in the Hampshire Gazette, as we begin our series of readings and penguin events this Sunday at 2 pm the White Square Book Shop and on Friday at 2pm at the Odyssey Bookstore in South Hadley Mass.

Below is the article from today’s Gazette.

Whoever heard of a penguin that can’t swim? Well, Noodles, a nervous young penguin who’s a key character in a new children’s book, has just that problem. Noodles, unlike his peers, has yet to dip his flippers into the icy waters off Antarctica, and his parents warn him that if he doesn’t learn how to swim, he’ll be left behind in the spring when the whole colony puts to sea.

In “Noodles & Albie,” published by Small Batch Books of Amherst, Noodles does make it into the water, discovering to his delight that swimming is a blast and that the undersea world is a fascinating place — so fascinating, in fact, that he soon becomes lost. He asks a host of creatures — an eel, a squid, a crab, a starfish — if they know the way to the penguin colony, but none of them can help him.

But then a small red fish, Albie, comes to the rescue, guiding Noodles back to his home, the two of them racing through the last stretch of ocean as they try to outrun a ferocious leopard seal that’s intent on turning Noodles into dinner. Noodles is happily reunited on the snow-covered shore with his mother and father. But will he ever see his new friend again?

The story of how “Noodles & Albie” came to be is an interesting one in its own right. Author Eric Bennett, who lives in Northampton, runs an online business selling all manner of penguin-related merchandise, and he’d long told his two young daughters a version of the tale as a bedtime story. Eventually he put some of it down on paper, with a few illustrations to boot, and he says the tale got an enthusiastic reception when he read it last year at his daughter’s kindergarten class at the Bridge Street Elementary School.

When parents and children began asking for printed copies of the story, Bennett talked with his friend Liz Bannish, a Northampton artist, and the two decided to make a children’s book — a first for both of them. Bannish, who has some background in marine biology, has created a wealth of colorful watercolor and ink illustrations for the book, which the New York Daily News calls “A sweet, fun story of penguins and friendship.”

Eric Bennett and Liz Bannish will read “Noodles & Albie” on Aug. 17 at 2 p.m. at White Square Books in Easthampton and on Aug. 22 at 2 p.m. at the Odyssey Bookshop in South Hadley; events specially geared for children will be featured.
Bennett Front Cover

Giant Prehistoric Penguin Found

August 11, 2014

The awe-inspiring Palaeeudyptes klekowskii, at nearly 7 feet tall - believed to be the biggest penguin ever.

The awe-inspiring Palaeeudyptes klekowskii, at nearly 7 feet tall – believed to be the biggest penguin ever.

Penguins are adorable – their tuxedo plumage, their precious waddle with their little vestigial wings balancing them, their charming fluffy chicks resting on daddy’s scaly clawed feet. You look down at them and smile.

Now imagine one looking down at you. Wonder what he’d think?  Fossil penguins that are nearly seven feet long and almost certainly taller than you have been discovered on the Antarctic Peninsula by Argentine paleontologists, who have dubbed the extinct bird ‘Colossus’ by virtue of its awesome proportions.

More formally known as Palaeeudyptes klekowskii, it is the largest-known penguin ever to have walked (waddled) the earth.

It bears elaboration that penguins aren’t measured by “height,” but by “length,” because of their penguin-like posture. Their height is somewhat lesser than their length from beak-tip to toes. In the case of Colossus penguin, its beak was mighty long.  But, unless you’re NBA material, it most likely towered over you.

Experts had known that giant penguins had existed, says paleontologist Carolina Acosta Hospitaleche, who works at the La Plata Museum. They just hadn’t thought they got that big.

The breakthrough was when Acosta Hospitaleche found an astonishingly large tarsometatarsus – a fused ankle-foot bone – that spanned 9.1 centimeters (about 4 inches) on Seymour Island. It was the biggest ever found for a penguin, and from it she extrapolated that the bird was a hair over two meters long, from beak-tip to toe.

The biggest contemporary penguin is the Emperor, which is pretty hefty 90 lbs, and can max out at a height, I mean length of just about four feet.  Colossus was nearly three feet taller and weighed twice as much as the Emperor, around 250 pounds, say the scientists.

penguin

Present Day Emperor Penguin and Chick

Sad to say this big boy went extinct some 35 million years ago, a time when the region was somewhat warmer, rather like the tip of South America today. The Colossus was one of many species – about ten, or 14, depending on classifications by squabbling paleontologists – of penguin on Seymour Island.

Modern-day penguins swim beautifully, but Colossus had stamina that beat the lot, able to stay underwater for 40 minutes at a stretch, says the team from Argentina’s Museum of Natural Science. Yet they went extinct.

All of this begs a question about latter-day penguins. The birds are famous for preferring cold climes. What will happen to them in the changing, warmer world? Some scientists believe they may survive through adaptation, based on evidence that colonies thought to have disappeared had actually simply upped and moved.

First Penguin Of A Kind

August 11, 2014

seaworld+penguin+artificial+insemination

The Penguin Post has learned that an adorable silver and white penguin chick living at SeaWorld San Diego is more than just her looks. She’s a scientific breakthrough.

The 12-week-old bird was a product of the world’s first penguin artificial insemination using frozen-then-thawed semen. “This is a technique that has never been performed successfully in any penguin species,” said SeaWorld’s Scientific Director Justine O’Brian. Before this trial run, O’Brian’s team just used frozen semen to inseminate the cold-weather birds because the thawed version had not worked.

But on May 14, things went just swimmingly, and the new technique proved a success when the tiny female Magellanic penguin was hatched.  This has huge implications for penguin breeding, especially of endangered populations going forward.

 

A Baby Tennessee Tuxedo

August 5, 2014

The Penguin Post has learned that there’s a fluffy new face in the Tennessee Aquarium’s Penguins’ Rock exhibit.  Penguin lovers welcomed the new chick to the colony in June. The proud parents, “Chaos” and “Merlin,” stay busy snuggling their baby in the nest and seem to enjoy showing it off to everyone.

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“Both parents have very laid back personalities, which is helpful when we need to do weight checks and clean the nest,” said senior aviculturist Amy Graves. “They’re also a great parental team. Merlin serves as protector and Chaos does a great job feeding.”

Chaos certainly keeps busy since this tiny bird has a giant appetite. Aquarium guests can have fun eavesdropping on this family. A microphone inside the exhibit picks up the chick’s vocalizations whenever it begs to be fed, which seems to be almost constantly lately. The sounds of the colony are audible throughout Penguins’ Rock. But, mom responds to the begging and appears to be keeping pace. Her baby consistently weighs in at the high end of the healthy range during veterinary exams. “Baby penguins should experience rapid growth,” said Graves. “We track each chick’s progress through frequent weigh-ins and compare the results to the ranges we know are considered healthy. Since this penguin is staying pretty pudgy, it’s clear that the parents are doing a great job with feeding.”

The Aquarium’s penguin experts hope this “big mac” sets a good example for the chicks that follow it, both in demeanor and rapid growth.

Last year aviculturists had their hands full supplementing feedings for a couple of chicks up to five times each day when sluggish weight gains indicated the parents were not delivering enough nutrition on their own.

Aviculturist Loribeth Aldrich says even though the chick is very vocal, it seems to have inherited its parent’s demeanor. “He’s pretty laid-back and easygoing,” said Aldrich. “The chick doesn’t mind being handled during exams or being photographed.”

This is quite a switch from “Pepper,” another Macaroni who was also the aquarium’s very first baby penguin hatchling in 2009. “She was a feisty bird almost from the day she hatched,” said Aldrich.

Earlier this year, Pepper and 10 other penguins that were reared at the aquarium were moved to other institutions accredited by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums. They will have the opportunity to have offspring of their own while bolstering the overall genetic diversity of the Macaroni and Gentoo population in human care. This transfer also affords the aquarium’s colony more flipper room during the breeding season.

This new Macaroni penguin is the first for the 2014 season and it’s possible that aviculturists will remain very busy this season with additional chicks.

Visitors can see the new chick inside an acrylic “playpen” on the right-hand side of the exhibit. It will remain inside this protective barrier for several more weeks before it will be allowed to roam outside the nest. “Penguins need their waterproof swim feathers before they are ready to go out on their own,” said Graves. “Right now, the chick is still dependent on mom and dad, but they seem to like that just fine.”

The chick’s gender will be determined during a blood test later this year. At that time, a Facebook contest is planned to find the perfect name for him or her.

 

A Penguin Proposal!

August 5, 2014

The Penguin Post has learned that as proposals go, this was probably the coolest as it involved an actual ring-bearing penguin. When boyfriend Mitch arranged a day out at Pittsburgh Zoo for his girlfriend Casey, little did she know it was no ordinary day out. At the zoo, Casey was overjoyed to get up close with the penguins.

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But her joy turned to surprise when one of the penguins waddled out with a ring hanging from its neck on a ribbon. Unable to refuse the cute penguin (and Mitch) – Casey said yes. Mitch, who had enlisted the help of a filming crew, caught the happy event on hidden cameras. After spending their first Halloween together in penguin-themed fancy dress, the couple have always had a shared passion for their feathered friends.

Mitch said: ‘I wanted to keep the penguin theme in our relationship. I even thought of buying a penguin.’ Casey added: ‘It was just perfect. I always tell him – don’t buy me things – let’s just do things.’  They certainly did.

 

 

 

A Grand Penguin Day In Staten Island

July 21, 2014

The Penguin Post has learned that waddling female African penguin named Checkers charmed animal-loving children and adults at the Staten Island Zoo Sunday afternoon for the zoo’s annual Penguin Day celebration.

Hatched 19 years ago, Checkers the penguin  starred in educational presentations in the Zoo’s auditorium, focused on penguin biology, geography, and behavior, courtesy of Jenkinson’s Aquarium Penguin Habitat in Point Pleasant, N.J.

Laura Graziano, a curator at the Aquarium who handled Checkers and delivered the informative presentations, urged the audience to be as quiet as possible.

“Penguins have excellent hearing, better than ours,” she said.

In introducing Checkers, she explained that her breed, the African penguin, is native to South Africa, where temperatures are between 60 and 70 degrees Fahrenheit year-round, dispelling the commonly held assumptions that penguins thrive only in frigid climates.

Another fact:

“All wild penguins live in environments at the bottom half of the world, south of the Equator,” Ms. Graziano explained. None inhabit the Arctic, Alaska or the northern reaches of Canada. “Polar bears and penguins never see each other in the wild,” she commented.

Most penguins live in Antarctica, and others in places such as Australia and South American, she said. The audience also learned that penguins are birds that do not fly, and use their small wings as flippers, for swimming. Penguins do not have teeth, and swallow their food — fish and shrimp — whole because the birds cannot chew. Penguin feathers are “very tiny,” Ms. Graziano added, providing both warmth and water proofing. A last fact: “Penguins grow very big very fast, and reach full size in three or four months. The smallest breed of penguins weights one to two pounds, and the largest about 90 pounds,” the curator said.  A waddling fun day was had by all!

 

Penguin Populations Increasing? Depends Who You Ask.

July 17, 2014

There’s no denying that climate change is real, but according to recent reports there’s also no denying scientific evidence indicating that certain penguin populations are healthy and growing. Or is there?

The Penguin Post  has learned that researchers recently attempted to count all of the Adélie penguins in Antarctica and found, to their own surprise, that the numbers of this white-eyed breed are exploding on the frigid continent, according to the Wall Street Journal. This contradicts claims by activists that the flightless bird is a victim of global warming whose dwindling numbers can be directly linked to dwindling ice caps. Wildlife biologists closely monitor Adélie penguins because their status correlates with annual sea-ice conditions and temperature trends.

But the Adélie population is actually 53 percent larger than previously estimated by using satellite technology, having increased globally by 29 percent in two decades, although this may have more to do with previous under-counting than the Adelie’s thriving under present conditions.

Heather Lynch of Stony Brook University, in New York, and imaging specialist Michelle LaRue of the University of Minnesota counted the birds by satellite and found that the Adélie penguin population is now 3.79 million breeding pairs, with 251 colonies.

The survey, published online this week by the American Ornithologists’ Union, coincides with another satellite census of Emperor penguins conducted in 2012 by geographers at the British Antarctic Survey that happened upon twice as many Emperor penguins as scientists had previously thought existed.

A recent article from Reuters.com reported findings from a study predicting that global warming would reduce Antarctica’s Emperor penguin population from 600,000 to around 480,000 by 2100. Governments have been reluctant to list the birds as endangered, however, because populations in 45 known colonies are supposed to rise until 2050 before declining. Emperors are one of three species considered stable, and of the 18 penguin species, only King, Adélie, and Chinstrap penguins are said to be increasing.

That is, unless the one talking is Ron Naveen, founder of the scientific research organization Oceanites, who told ABCnews.com, “We know two of the three penguin species in the peninsula, Chinstrap and Adélie, are declining significantly in a region where, in the last 60 years, it’s warmed by five degrees Fahrenheit annually and by nine degrees Fahrenheit in winter.” This organization found that it is actually the Gentoo species that is increasing.

In June, another University of Minnesota study led by LaRue discovered that Emperor penguins may be behaving so as to adapt to their changing environment better than expected. The researchers recorded “six instances in just three years in which emperor penguins did not return to the same location to breed,” pointing to a newly found colony on the Antarctic Peninsula that may indicate the relocation of penguins.

“Our research showing that colonies seem to appear and disappear throughout the years challenges behaviors we thought we understood about emperor penguins,” LaRue told Sciencedaily.com. The assumption that Emperor penguins return to the same locations annually does not account for the satellite images. These birds move among colonies.

“That means we need to revisit how we interpret population changes and the causes of those changes,” LaRue said.

A colony called Pointe Géologie, of March of the Penguins fame, has been studied for over 60 years. Researchers track certain birds in the colony every year to see if they rejoin the colony. In recent decades researchers worried that receding sea ice might be affecting the Emperor penguins in the colony who breed on it. A five-year decline in the late 1970s that diminished the colony by half was thought to be the result of warming temperatures in the Southern Ocean.

Now high-resolution satellite pictures have revealed the entire coastline and all the sea ice for researchers to peruse. Before this imagery, scientists thought Pointe Géologie was isolated, preventing the penguins from traveling elsewhere. The images show, however, that Pointe Géologie is actually within comfortable distance of neighboring colonies. The discrepancies in population numbers may be a function of where researchers are looking.

LaRue explains the significance of this data.

“It’s possible that birds have moved away from Pointe Géologie to these other spots and that means that maybe those banded birds didn’t die,” LaRue concluded. “If we want to accurately conserve the species, we really need to know the basics. We’ve just learned something unexpected, and we should rethink how we interpret colony fluctuations.”

Adelie Penguins

Adelie Penguins

New Penguins In New England.

July 17, 2014

The five newest penguin chicks at the New England Aquarium have a big job to do — aside from being incredibly adorable.

The Penguin Post has learned that three Little Blue and two African penguin chicks will serve as liaisons for their cousins in the wild and will increase the diversity of their species’s captive population’s gene pool.

Little Blue penguins originate from the southern coastlines of Australia and New Zealand and the African penguins inhabit land along the southern coast of Africa. Little Blues are the smallest species of penguin and have sleek, steel blue feathers. African penguins have yellow stripes on their foreheads in adulthood. feathers when they hatch. The New England Aquarium is one of the only institutions in the United States that has Little Blues, something that Heather Urquhart, penguin exhibit manager for the aquarium, hopes to change.

“There is a lot of interest in getting more of these little guys in zoos and aquariums here,” Urquhart said. “We are working with the Aussies to get more little birds to some other cities.”

The chicks have joined the ranks of only 64 Little Blues in United States zoos and aquariums — 29 of which are housed in the New England Aquarium. The sustainability of such a small population is a big concern, especially with regard to gene diversity and potential growth.

“These birds are teaching zoo- and aquarium-goers about their wild brethren and we want them to be as healthy as possible,” Urquhart said. “We want to not only have a healthy and diverse population in our own aquarium, but for the populations in zoos and aquariums everywhere.”

Urquhart is currently working closely with the Bronx Zoo in New York and the Taronga Zoo in Australia to bring more Little Blues stateside within the next few months.

The African penguins’ captive population is very strong, with about 800 birds living throughout the country, said Urquhart. Their wild counterparts, however, are facing serious challenges caused by climate change.

Dan Laughlin, assistant curator at the New England Aquarium, said the endangered African penguins are seeing a mass exodus of their food source — primarily pilchards and anchovies — because of changing water temperatures in their native areas. Eleven of the 18 species of penguins are endangered.

The 12- and 13-day-old African penguin chicks will join their 41-member colony at around 60 days old. Another African egg is due to hatch in mid-August. Laughlin said all penguin chicks must undergo a few private swimming lessons and weaning from their parents before joining the 85-bird colony at the aquarium. He added that he loves this time of year, and not just because of the chicks’ fuzzy cuteness.

“I love the smell of baby penguins,” he said. “It’s the best smell in the world.”

Little Blue Penguins at New England Aquarium

Little Blue Penguins at New England Aquarium


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