The soon to be released Noodles & Albie is a colorful and fun penguin picture book. Story by Eric Bennett and illustrations by Liz Bannish. It is the tale of how a young penguin (Noodles) overcomes his fears and makes, loses and finds again an unlikely new friend (Albie), and does a lot of growing up the process.
Noodles & Albie was conceived and evolved over time by Penguin Place founder and long time lover of all things penguin Eric Bennett as a bedtime story for his young daughters. The story was originally called The Fish & The Penguin, and was scribbled down a couple of times, and over time some illustrations were made by Eric and his kids, but it was mostly told and re-told from memory and over the years with each re-telling the story grew and the characters evolved.
This past January, Eric was “volunteered” by his youngest daughter Rose to read a story to her kindergarten class, so Eric decided rather than read something the kids already knew, he’d finally put The Fish & The Penguin story to paper and read his original penguin tale to Rose’s class. In writing it down Eric fleshed out the main characters a bit more giving them the names Noodles and Albie, and added a few supporting underwater players. The origin of the title names were that Noodles has been Eric’s nickname since he was a kid (think long curly ringlets of 1970′s hair), and Albie is the the nickname of Eric’s friend Melissa who he plays ball with. Eric also decided on settling on those names so as not to upset either of his daughters, and also to give the characters a bit more personality than the generic Fish & Penguin. Besides, it seemed from the get-go that the names Noodles & Albie fit the characters perfectly.
To Eric’s surprise and delight the reading of Noodles and Albie to Ms. Bussone’s kindergarten class at Bridge St. School was met with much fanfare and acclaim, or as much acclaim (twenty 6 years old kids giving a standing ovation) as one can get from a kindergarten class. Even Ms. Bussone wanted to know the origin of this “wonderful book”. A small Noodles & Albie buzz was now in the air around the lower grades with Eric getting requests for print copies of the story from some of the children and parents at Bridge St. School. A short time later Noodles & Albie was brought to the attention of local Northampton artist Elizabeth Bannish who was intrigued by the charming narrative and colorful characters of the story, so naturally Eric inquired if she would be interested in illustrating the story. To his surprise Liz said yes, and the two began to collaborate on the fun side project of bringing the Noodles, Albie and their world to life. Over the next weeks and months Liz’s illustrations went from black and white storyboard sketches, to beautiful, unique and vivid color paintings. Capturing the essence of the story and her interesting take on the characters that inhabit it.
Not to give too much away but the story is about Noodles, a young penguin who is afraid to go in the water, but of course being a penguin he must learn how to swim, especially before the winter and six months of Antarctic darkness sets in.
On the last day of summer (and daylight), his parents finally convince Noodles to take the plunge. After a few moments of confusion and anxiety Noodles realizes that swimming is easy and fun. But, in his excitement Noodles gets separated from his friends and soon is lost. He knows he has to get back home before the sun sets for the Antarctic (six months) winter or else he’ll never find his way home, and so his odyssey begins. He asks various sea creatures for directions, but none of them know where the penguin colony is. Alone and lost, Noodles is desolate. A small fish named Albie hears his crying and offers to help. It’s a race against time to get back to the penguin colony before the sun sets. The fun adventures and intrigue that happens to the pair along the way is what Noodles & Albie is all about.Noodles & Albie should be available as an e-book sometime the Fall of 2013