The Great Santa Stakeout – Perfect Picture Book Friday #PPBF

What do you get when you team up children’s librarian Betsy Bird with Super Illustrator, Dan Santat? This!

TextⓒBesty Bird, IllustrationⓒDan Santat

I was reminded of the time when our son was small, and he rigged up an infrared night camera triggered by a motion sensor. On Christmas Eve, my husband and I used the camera to take photos of a black-gloved hand reaching for a cookie on the plate, another gloved hand reaching through a door toward the Christmas tree, and a final photo of a bag of goodies on the back of someone dressed in a Santa suit. Our son was sooo excited the next morning when he checked for snapshots on the camera. Ah, the memories.

In THE GREAT SANTA STAKEOUT, Freddy Melcher doesn’t just love Santa Claus. Oh, no. He dresses up as Santa for birthday parties, Valentine’s Day, and even on….”Talk Like a Pirate Day.”

TextⓒBetsy Bird, IllustrationⓒDan Santat

He collects Santa posters, action figures, underwear…and he wants a pet reindeer.

But what he really, really, really, really, really wants is a photo of Santa after coming down the chimney.

Freddy doesn’t just WISH this. Oh, no. Freddy is a planner and a doer!

He rigs up an alarm system on the roof, motion-sensitive cameras in the living room, a cookie-laden pressure-sensitive plate, and he practices staying up late—something he doesn’t quite master.

So when there’s a huge CRASH on Christmas Eve, Freddy startles awake. He sees that something rolled off the roof! But when he dashes outside, he finds that Santa foiled his plan and left him a note.

How does Freddy respond? Does he get angry? Embarrassed? Have a tantrum? Well, he wouldn’t be Freddy if he did that. He frames Santa’s note and starts planning for next year.

TextⓒBetsy Bird, IllustrationⓒDan Santat

Good luck, Freddy! Kids will either identify with or be entertained by Freddy’s obsession, and root for his success…again next year.

The pacing is perfect. The language, fun. And, of course, the illustrations are distinctly Dan Santat. The end papers show Freddy’s design plans, and under the jacket, the boards are printed with Santa heads. This book would be perfect for those who celebrate Christmas, and for those who are entertained by character-driven stories.


Design your own Santa selfie scheme.

Talk about persistence and how Freddy responds to failure.

Pair with other books about persistence like MARY HAD A LITTLE LAB by Sue Fliess or ROSIE REVERE, ENGINEER by Andrea Beatty.







For more perfect picture book recommendations, please visit Susanna Hill’s blog.



8 thoughts on “The Great Santa Stakeout – Perfect Picture Book Friday #PPBF

  1. Joanna says:

    Oh, your story is wild. How cool to play along with the infrared light. Liam must have been so excited. Dan’s story also sounds super fun.

  2. Patricia Tilton says:

    What a hoot! This will be a top Christmas book pick this year! What kid hasn’t tried to catch Santa in action. It sounds like you had as much fun filming Santa for your son, as he thought he had caught Santa in action.

  3. FictionFan says:

    Santa will be really annoyed at you and your husband having impersonated him! I suspect when he reads this post you’ll be stuck on the Naughty List for the next five years… 🎅

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