No longer being a child, and having seen the movie before ever reading Chris Van Allsburg's The Polar Express, I find it somewhat difficult to review this Caldecott Award-winning book. Never having heard of the book before the movie came out, I had originally assumed that this must be some classic Christmas book from a half-century or more ago, one that had somehow escaped my notice when I was a child. The story really does read like a traditional classic, which is only one of the reasons I am so fond of it. I also love the beautiful simplicity of it all, as well as the fact that it helps me remember what Christmas meant to me as a child.
To me, The Polar Express actually speaks more eloquently to grown-ups than it does to children - although these visions of Santa and his reindeer, particularly in the ever-so-long days of middle December, are sure to invite smiles and squeals (and, I expect, questions along the lines of "why would he choose a bell when he could have had a Playstation 3?") from youngsters. Children will no doubt enjoy this story, but I am not so sure they will truly appreciate it - not until, that is, they have had the misfortune of growing up and losing that precious sense of wonder that defines childhood. The Polar Express speaks most subtly and powerfully to those of us who can no longer hear the bell.