The Great PJ Elf Chase by Karen LoBello and Judy Voigt

The Great PJ Elf Chase

“There’s a Christmas Eve tradition in the Taylor household. While the boys take baths, Santa’s elves drop new pajamas outside their bathroom door!” That explains the book’s title — The Great PJ Elf Chase. And once you catch on to the premise, it’s suddenly a lot more intriguing.

There’s something fun about a children’s picture book that rhymes, and the book’s cover fills in the backstory. “The PJ elves are sly and quick, but this year they’re in for a surprise — Ben and Jack are on a mission to catch one of them! ” Away we go — the book starts with the two brothers making plans on the morning of December 24th — and their conversation is written entirely in rhyme.

“Wake up, Jack.
Tonight’s Christmas Eve!
I wonder which PJs
the elves will leave?”

The crisp rhythm keeps things interesting — and the book instantly delivers more intrigue by switching from the two mischievous brothers to the elves who are watching them! With a crystal ball they track which kids have finished their baths, then when the delivery’s a go, send a specific team of elves to the children’s address at the appropriate time. I like how the book shows both sides of the story — and at one point, you even see the elves snickering under the boys’ bed!

Will the little boys outsmart the elves? They’ve hidden cheese in a box labeled “Trap #1”, and enlisted their dog McGee to keep watch over their door. But there’s a rambunctious energy on both sides, since these elves also like to mess up each family’s house. It was a family tradition for the book’s authors, two sisters who remember that growing up they always had a lot of fun each Christmas — regardless of how many presents were under their tree. And they’ve worked their memories into a story that’s surprisingly exciting — with a funny twist at the end.

Young Ben won’t give up, and he hunts after those elves — running outside in his towel! It’s a snowy day, but soon Ben discovers that he’s got an even bigger problem. ” ‘Oh my gosh! This can’t be!’ Ben must hide near a tree. His bath towel is gone — did the neighbor girls see?” Children will probably enjoy laughing at the end of this book — and the little boy who was just a little too anxious to catch the PJ Elves.

I like how this book also includes a game, challenging readers to count how many elves are hidden throughout the book’s illustrations. (“Be careful — elves like to hide!”) The illustrations by Lorena Soriano are all appropriately colorful, with magical golds and greens for the elves, and nice pastel blue backgrounds sporting lots of Christmas decorations. And it’s also nice that Ben’s younger brother ran after him with a towel, saying playfully that “You ALMOST caught them.”

And then the boys begin planning together how they’ll catch those elves next year…

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