Santa’s looking for a successor…time for a Christmas contest of epic proportions.
Ollie and his best friend, Celia, are 11-year-old elves (if they were humans, he’d be white and she’d be black) who work in Games & Puzzles when the current Santa Claus—Matt Claus—announces a contest for persons under 16 to vie to become the next Santa. Ollie and Celia join a motley crew of Clauses, humans, and elves as contestants in a monthlong competition. The first contest—sneaking past giant, fire-breathing robot toddlers to deliver wish letters to the proper departments—winnows down the field. Can the best friends hold on to their Christmas cheer and prevail through 10 more wacky Christmas contests? Huett’s debut is an idea with potential buried under an avalanche of unnecessary scenes and stock characters in Christmas costumes. The contestants routinely break the rules of the competition, and the contests themselves at time run counter to the stated goal of finding the best next Santa (as in one that features random elimination). Ramp, an obviously elderly Claus relative, masquerades as a teenager to enter, and his attempts at kidspeak, never particularly funny, grow tiresome. Ollie’s wide-eyed excitement and sweetness are cloying out of the gate, and his naiveté stretches credulity.
A Yule slog. (Fantasy. 8-12)