cover image The Great Santa Stakeout

The Great Santa Stakeout

Betsy Bird, illus. by Dan Santat. Scholastic/Levine, $17.99 (40p) ISBN 978-1-338-16998-0

More than anything, Freddy Melcher wants to meet his idol, Santa—so he concocts a surefire plan to snag a Santa selfie “fresh out of the chimney.” Bird supplies all the elements a heist needs to succeed: obsession (“Freddy had Santa posters, Santa action figures, and Santa underwear”), elaborate plans (“Step 1... String the roof with cans, so the sleigh can’t land undetected”), and minute-by-minute reportage (“It was almost midnight”). Santat lights the story’s comic fuse with a spread of Freddy’s treasured collection of Santa toys (one action figure boasts “64 points of articulation”), provides blueprints, creates night shots with eerie blue-screen light, and supplies in-your-face close-ups of the ensuing chaos. Though it feels a tad one-note, Freddy Melcher’s feverish desire to meet his favorite celebrity makes him the kind of over-the-top comic character whose inane schemes provide laughs whether they succeed or fail—and naturally suggest further stakeout possibilities. Ages 4–8. [em](Sept.) [/em]