Monday, December 25, 2017

Merry Christmas!

34314557Huett, Caleb Zane. Top Elf
September 26th 2017 by Scholastic Press
E ARC from Edelweiss Above the Treeline

Ollie is happy living at the North Pole and working in the Games and Puzzles division with his good friend Celia, so he's concerned when Santa wants to retire and wants to have a contest to pick his successor. Ollie thinks that one of his children should be picked, but warms to the idea of an elf being in charge. The contest is only for elves under the age of 16, and Celia and Ollie decide that they would be better choices than some of the entrants. One seems especially suspicious-- Ramp claims to be 16 but seems much older, and isn't very competent. There are a lot of contests, from working in the mail room, to a sleigh design challenge and race. Ollie and Celia work together and support each other, although some of the other contestants try to sabotage each other; Andrea tells Ollie that reindeer really like jokes, for example, which almost causes him to not be able to assemble a team of the acerbic and contrary creatures. Both elves do well and advance, and Ollie is glad to work with his mother on designing a new Santa suit. It's an oddly close competition, and when they get right to the end, there is an even bigger problem that might effect the energy that runs the entire North Pole. Of course, Celia and Ollie don't worry about the next competition, but instead try to avert the treachery. Will it be enough to convince Santa to leave Christmas in their capable hands?
Strengths: There aren't a whole lot of Christmas themed books, and there are always students who want some. This is funny, and will appeal to holiday loving readers from 2nd to 8th grade. There are enough descriptions of the North Pole for readers who just like Christmas, but a fair amount of action and adventure to move the story along. The cover will be great in holiday displays.
Weaknesses:This would have been even better if it had been a bit shorter-- some of the competitions drag on a bit.
What I really think: . If any book ever begged for illustrations, this would have been it! I'll probably buy a copy to have on hand for when Funke's When Santa Fell to Earth is checked out.

I do have my concerns about the inclusion of the HeatMiser and SnowMiser. Did the author get permission from Rankin Bass to use these? They are in the stop action The Year Without a Santa Claus. That is based on Phyllis McGinley's 1950s poem by the same name that ran in Good Housekeeping magazine, but I'm pretty sure those characters weren't in the poem. HeatMiser and SnowMiser are not folk characters, so it was odd to see them included. And now their songs are firmly stuck in my mind!

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