Ollie Gnome, an 11-year-old elf, loves Christmas more than anything in the world. In Santa's Workshop, near his North Pole home, he studies "mapomatics, toyology, list-erature and Santa Studies," and he creates new toys in the Games & Puzzles (G&P) department. His best friend, Celia Pixie, is a genius inventor at G&P. Every July 2, all the elves gather for Santa's traditional kick-off speech. But this year, Santa has a shocking surprise: Mr. and Mrs. Claus have decided that there will be a competition to determine the next Santa. This person--whether human like the Claus family or elf like everyone else--will inherit the mysterious Quantum Kringle, a small globe containing the magic that allows Santa to deliver presents to children around the world in just one night.
Ollie and Celia decide to enter, if only to keep their nemesis, Buzz Brownie, from winning. Thus begins six months of insane challenges, packed as full as Santa's sleigh with family rivalries, strokes of technological brilliance, masterful strategizing, colossal failures and a strange old guy masquerading as a child competitor.
Caleb Zane Huett's debut novel is fun and exciting, perfect for readers who will not be shocked at the idea of a Santa named Matthew or technology-fueled sleighs. The cast of characters is broad, and includes a reindeer punk rock band; a perpetually grease-stained Mrs. Claus, who's in charge of Wish Generator maintenance and repairs; and cameos by a bickering Heatmiser and Snowmiser. And, of course, Ollie. Ollie is charmingly reminiscent of Keats in Christian Burch's The Manny Files, swooning over fabulous Big Red Suit designs and always believing the best in everyone, even as they are taking advantage of him. Top Elf is an exhilarating Christmas read, any time of the year. --Emilie Coulter, freelance writer and editor