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.