cover image Noodles’ and Albie’s Birthday Surprise

Noodles’ and Albie’s Birthday Surprise

Eric Bennett, illus. by Milanka Reardon. Penguin Place, $17.95 (32p) ISBN 978-0-692-78885-1

Noodles the penguin and his fish friend, Albie, get a chance to save Christmas in this humorous follow-up to Noodles and Albie: A Penguin Journey. (Never mind that neither animal has heard of the holiday.) Bennett’s story primarily revolves around another celebration: Noodles’s birthday, which falls on December 24. Albie gives him a compass as a present, and Noodles quickly regifts it after they run into a “chubby tourist” dressed in red, stranded with his reindeer on an Antarctic ice floe. Bennett and Reardon both get in some good jokes: Santa describes how his new GPS system’s incessant instructions led him to go off-course, and during a visit to an underwater amusement park, Albie and Noodles take a spin on the Octowhirl ride, an actual octopus. The story meanders a bit, and Reardon’s artwork wavers uncomfortably between cartoonish and naturalistic in places, but readers should still get a kick out of the animals’ obliviousness to all things Christmas. A lighthearted Q&A with Albie—featuring questions about the Antarctic, how compasses work, and more—rounds out this warm friendship story. Ages 4–8. (BookLife)