When a penguin receives a compass for his birthday, he gets the chance to help a lost Kris Kringle.
It’s midsummer in the Antarctic, Dec. 24, and Noodles’ first birthday. Noodles the penguin enjoys playing in the snow and sliding on the ice with his friends. One pal, Albie (a fish), gives Noodles two perfect gifts: a compass and a trip to Polar Kingdom, the underwater amusement park. They have a wonderful time, though Noodles almost loses his compass on the Octowhirl, and return home to find a “plump tourist” in a sled filled with boxes, accompanied by some strange animals. Introducing himself as Kris Kringle, the tourist explains he’s lost. Noodles generously offers his new compass, and Kris flies north with his reindeer. The next morning, Noodles gets his compass back, nicely wrapped up, with a thank-you note saying, “You saved Christmas!” Though Bennett’s follow-up to Noodles & Albie: A Penguin Journey (2014) is set during Christmas, Albie has no reply when Noodles asks, “What the heck is Christmas anyway?” so parents may need to answer that one for themselves. The enchanting prospect of a birthday, an undersea amusement park, and helping Santa has great appeal, even when Noodles must (temporarily) give away his compass. Reardon’s soft pastel illustrations are charming, capturing the playful, dynamic spirit of the characters. Some details strike a wrong note, though, as when penguins are shown living in igloos, an invention of the Arctic Inuit.
Beautiful illustrations, plus birthday and Christmas together—fun.