Score: 88/100 (8.8 out of 10)
Snoodles in Space by Steven Joseph is one of the weirdest, strangest, goofiest, silliest, most bizarre books we've ever read, yet it is also incredibly fun, lighthearted, enjoyable, and entertaining. It embraces its own weirdness. It accepts its own goofiness. It basks in its own silliness.
It becomes clear from the beginning that Snoodles in Space is not your typical children's book, nor is it trying to be. This is something different, boldly and ambitiously so. It takes a certain level of boldness and creativity to craft something like this.
Snoodles in Space might be described as a phonetic, word-salad or word-play book. It places special emphasis on the long “ooo” sound with words like snoodle, poodle, noodle, roodle, and zoodle. The book also makes frequent use of alliteration such as with the Prickly Peppered Purple Propulsion Powered Pickle.
The book has a pretty convoluted plot with a plethora of characters, some key ones and some that seem to be around just for fun.
There are really two overlapping plots:
1. There is a fierce rivalry between two entrepreneurs: Herbie Snoodleman, the inventor of the Snoodle (noodle/clean energy) and Snoodlemobiles (cars that run on noodle energy), and Sour Croodleman, the inventor of the Krautmobile (which runs on kraut or dirty energy).
There is likely some social commentary about renewable/clean fuels and big oil, although it is never taken so seriously that it detracts from the light, playful tone of the book. Sour Croodleman refuses to meet, talk to, or acknowledge Herbie Snoodleman, blaming him for the downfall of his fortunes. Sour Croodleman is illustrated to resemble (and acts like) a stereotypical car salesman: sleazy and money hungry. Meanwhile, Herbie Snoodleman is portrayed as a scientist, an innovator, and a kind of philanthropist. No two people could be more different. Even so, following these two “-oodlemans” can be a bit of a headache. This problem is compounded by the fact that they have relatives with the same (or similar) names, making it somewhat of a chore to follow who is who and what is what and why is why.
Don't believe us? Well, there's Sally Stroodle, Norman Noodle, Briana Brainy Broodle, and Ricky Rockadoodle. What you really need to know is that one of these is Sour Croodleman's nephew (Ricky) and Herbie Snoodleman's niece (Briana) because them setting aside the differences between the families is key.
It is a little cute and interesting that, despite the differences between their patriarchs, the two families have something in common. When Sour's family finds something that doesn't go to plan, they say, “You know, this isn't rocket science." When Herbie's family finds something that doesn't go to plan, they say, “You know, this isn't brain surgery.”
2. The second key plot involves an alien race from the planet Zoodle. They have a mothership that's malfunctioning called the Zoodle Kidoodle. They also have a fleet of vacuum cleaning Star Destroyer-ish ships which are also called Zoodle Kidoodles. They have a supreme leader named Cloodle the Grand Doodle who requires brain surgery. Confusingly, we're introduced to the commander of the Zoodle Kidoodle named Evil Kidoodle, and we thought that Evil Kidoodle was the Grand Doodle (with “Evil” being a title), but Evil Kidoodle is not—in fact—the Grand Doodle, that would be Cloodle, a child/baby pharaoh-looking person whose head is cracked open like the top of a pickle jar. Anyway, the Zoodle aliens kidnap Norman Noodle and Sally Stroodle with the intention of blackmailing their families into performing brain surgery on Cloodle and repairing their ship. If you're lost, we don't blame you.
Anyway, they leave a ransom note which leads to the two families setting aside their differences and going to space to confront the Zoodle aliens. They repair their leader's brain as well as the ship, but find themselves on the verge of being exploited for labor for 100 years, which they must find a plot shortcut/device to avoid.
Oh, yeah, there's also the pickle energy subplot that becomes relevant at some point, perhaps proving that even the seemingly diabolical Sour Croodleman can come up with new innovations when motivated.
Oh, yeah, there are also three somewhat-villainous, somewhat-irrelevant side characters among the Zoodle aliens: Doo Doo Kidoodle (an alien dog who smells like poo all the time, which becomes a strange plot device), Voodoo Kidoodle (who really doesn't do anything), and Dr. Quack Kidoodle (who really doesn't do anything).
What we do admire about this book is that it takes risks (like having extraneous, unnecessary characters and characters with same-sounding names) and tackles issues like renewable energy, technology, innovation, and people setting side their differences to find common ground. All of that is important for the future of humanity, and we greatly appreciate.
We also appreciate the time and effort that it must've taken Andy Case to make 60 pages of illustrations, most of which are quite good.
Check this out on Amazon!