‘The Polar Express‘ by Chris Van Allsburg (published by Andersen Press)
This book has been a HUGE hit with the boys this year (the toot-toot factor earns it considerable cool points with H, if nothing else) and it’s not often I say this but it means that I’m very much looking forward to showing them the film as well. Again, in a real turn up for the books (ha ha!) as far as I’m concerned (actually I can’t think of a single other time when it has happened…) I saw the film of this story before I read the book and it’s a testament to both that that didn’t spoil either format for me.
I used to use some of Chris Van Allsburg’s other work (particularly ‘The Mysteries of Harris Burdick‘) when I was teaching and it never failed to capture the imagination of the children in my classes. I was therefore very excited when I heard about this book, combining his atmospheric illustrations with a Christmas story and it more than lived up to my expectations.
For those of you who haven’t yet come across this story, it is about a young boy who is starting to doubt the existence of Father Christmas. The Polar Express train arrives one Christmas Eve and the guard pulls him aboard to travel to the North Pole. The saying about the journey being as important as the destination is true here, as there are dancing waters, snow-covered mountains and a welcoming crowd of hundreds of elves before the children even get off the train.
The boy is lucky enough to be honoured with receiving Father Christmas’ first gift of Christmas and he chooses a silver bell from a reindeer’s harness. After they watch the sleigh depart on its mission, they return home on the Polar Express and the boy is distraught when he finds that he’s left the bell behind on the train when he disembarks. However, what should he find under the Christmas tree in the morning but his bell, with a note signed by ‘Mr C’? As you can well imagine, this means he never stops believing, no matter how old he gets. Definitely the best gift of all