An awkward young man soon discovers he has the carpentry skills of an elf and starts work at the North Pole, where he encounters chilly office politics and many humorous adventures.
Flea is tired of having to constantly move with his foster mother Miss Mabel, who he suspects is a werewolf. Just when the two of them have settled into a place, Miss Mabel insists they uproot stakes in an effort to “stay hidden.” Their latest home in North Carolina has come with an unexpected ally, in the form of a shop teacher named Mr. Strick who is blown away by Flea’s carpentry skills. Unbeknownst to Flea, Mr. Strick enters him into a national competition on the Construction Television Network, which Flea wins ably. His additional exposure lands him a trip to Santa’s workshop, where he is no longer a freakish boy with pointed features but a member of a larger tribe. At least, most of the time: despite finding a much greater degree of camaraderie than he has ever before, Flea still has a few mysterious powers up his sleeve.
Part fantasy, part coming-of-age tale, part humorous romp, THE NORTH POLE CHALLENGE is both entertaining and imaginative. As the first book of five, the narrator skillfully positions his central character to have numerous other adventures. The anguish, short-lived triumph, and eventual personal growth experienced by the narrator are creatively related but emotionally resonant. Technically, the book is lightly peppered with typos and grammatical mistakes (“Minko’s quirkiness was so odd that Flea had a hard time taking him serious”) and could use a rigorous pass by a professional proofreader.
With its playful concept and lighthearted, stimulating execution, THE NORTH POLE CHALLENGE adeptly sets the stage for the memorable adventures of an unusual and ultimately charming young man.