on 13 May 2003
An absolutely beautiful book about a little boy who refuses to stop believing in Father Christmas,no matter how much his friends tease him. On Christmas Eve, a steam train shows up and whisks the boy and his disbelieving friends off to the North Pole to meet the man himself.
Wonderfully written and illustrated by Chris Van Allsburg, this is a story to amaze and delight children, and touch the heart of any adult who reads it.
Soon to be made into a film starring Tom Hanks.
A nicely blended soundtrack of old and new songs, guaranteed to evoke those wonderful warm and fuzzy feelings of Christmas past.
Alan Silvestri's original score perfectly compliments the traditional favorites by Bing Crosby, Frank Sinatra, Perry Como, and the Andrews Sisters. A fresh spritz of energy is provided by Steven Tyler in the rocking "Rockin' On Top of the World", toned down only by Josh Groban on the very next track.
To round it all off, Tom Hanks sings! Two songs! Actually he kinda mugs/raps/goofs around - but it adds that perfect funny note to the album. One note Tom - don't quit your day job.
Just listening to this album will trigger an urgent burning need to see the movie.
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.
on 6 January 2011
Anyone expecting this book to be the story of the film will be slightly disappointed, the film builds on the bones of the story and expands it, slightly losing the simplicity along the way. Both book and story have the same values though - BELIEF!
The story bridges that gap in childhood that comes when the realisation dawns that Father Christmas is not a real person, but tells that there is still something to believe in your heart. In this beautifully illustrated book, the boy has a huge adventure on Christmas eve, travelling to the North Pole on a vast Steam Train, journeying through the frozen wastes to Santa's home where the elves are preparing his sleigh. The boy is chosen to receive the first gift of Christmas and, not wishing to be greedy, chooses a silver bell from the reindeer harness, which slips through a hole in his pocket and is lost.
It would spoil the story to tell the outcome - you will have to read it yourself!! The verson I bought also has a CD with the story read by Liam Neeson, twice. The first part straightforwardly, in the second a silver bell rings when it is time to turn the page and so a child who canot read can enjoy the magnificent pictures in context. I cannot recommend this book too highly for all believers and almost believers. As a companion to the DVD it is perfect.
on 27 July 2010
As a young boy, I can remember my mother's efforts to ensure Christmas was always special for me, my sister and my brothers. Christmas was always full of wonderful smells from the pantry and kitchen and that innocent certainty that a rotund, red-cheeked Father Christmas would arrive at our home on his sleigh, early Christmas Morning, to the sound of jingly bells. It was pure MAGIC! And Father Christmas always left us the greatest Christmas presents! One Christmas, he even left me some of his magic 'Jingle Bells' - I still have them and they sound great!
Both the film and the Soundtrack embody the Wonder and Spirit of Christmas. For me, it takes me back to my childhood and all the innocent pleasures of having Christmas with one's family - even if they are no longer there. If you are looking for 'Christmas' this music and/or film is a must. The film is amazing on Blu-Ray.
I love this album and I love the film too. I am an adult and I haven't got children and I have no excuse to listen to this album so much; but every December this is the first thing I'll be listening to. Great lyrical songs and wonderful music. Christmas in a box.
It'll make you believe again :)
Not really the right time of year to read this (August!), but my son was quite enchanted, nonetheless.
He hasn't seen the film, but I wanted to see what he thought of the book. It's a lovely edition, with ssuperb drawings of the children, scenes and train.
With hindsight though, I should have waited until my on was actually questioning the existence of Father Christmas before offering up to him the notion that he CAN be questioned! Still, he didn't seem to query it.
The story is probably well known by any reading this - a boy on Christmas Eve boards a magic train, bound for the North Pole. There is meets Father Christmas and is given a special gift - proof of Santa's existence...
This is a short enough read for preschooler bedtime, but long enough for an older child to enjoy reading by themselves. The illustrations really are lovely, and the ending full of magic for the Christmas season.
A book every child should experience at the right time.
on 5 December 2014
Forty plus and (almost) a newcomer to the story - I haven't even watched the film all the way through as I find the animation spooky, the characters somehow too human as to be animated and yet too animated to be convincingly human - what is there to say about The Polar Express that hasn't been said a thousand times before as generation after generation discover this seasonal treasure?
A wonderfully nostalgic novel, beautifully illustrated, that brought a tear to the eye. This particular edition (available from amazon.com but not amazon.co.uk as far as I can see) included a keepsake ornament and bonus CD read by Liam Neeson.
Copyright: Tracy Terry @ Pen and Paper.
on 5 November 2001
The Polar Express is the story of a young boy who was taken on a magical train journey to the North Pole on Christmas Eve to receive a special gift fron Santa Claus.
"The train was filled with other children, all in their pyjamas and nightgowns. We sang Christmas Carols and ate candies with nougat centers as white as snow. We drank hot cocoa as thick and rich as melted chocolate bars. Outside, the lights of towns and villages flickered in the distance as the Polar Express raced northward."
The gift the boy chose was a silver bell from Santa's sleigh, but on the way home he realised he had lost it. Filled with sadness he returned to bed that Christmas Eve, but in the morning...well, read the book and find out for yourselves. A truly wonderful story which will make you believe in faith (and Santa Claus).
Reading to your child is good for both of you. The experience strengthens your bond. Your example also helps your child to learn to read. Pick a good book, and you will have enriched your child's life in ways that would not otherwise be possible. Reading The Polar Express aloud is a good opportunity to accomplish these worthwhile results.
This delightful Christmas story raises a challenging question for parents: For whom is this book appropriate? The text suggests that some children and parents (and almost all people as they get older) don't believe in Santa. In addition, the story is filled with things parents tell their children never to do when parents are not around (such as take a ride with strangers, eat food and drink beverages from strangers, and accept gifts from strangers). If you decide to read the story to a very wee one, you should also be prepared for the possibility that your child might be frightened by the idea that all of this commotion can happen on Christmas Eve near your house.
My conclusion is that the optimum time to read this story is the first time you become aware that your child is a little confused or skeptical about Santa. This often occurs after seeing the 17th Santa in a store during the same shopping trip. You could use the multiplicity of Santas to explain why some children and adults are skeptical about these "Santa's helpers." Obviously, we all know that Santa is really busy at the North Pole. I suggest that you handle the "unapproved" behavior by asking your child if she or he should do these things, and reinforce the proper lessons.
The story itself centers on faith. A man remembers one Christmas Eve. The Polar Express pulls up in front of his house when he was a boy and a conductor invites him on board for a trip to the North Pole. During a mystical trip with a train full of children, the boy learned that one of the children will be selected by Santa to receive the very first gift of that Christmas. The boy was chosen and wanted a silver bell from Santa's sleigh. Santa was delighted to provide it . . . and roared off in the sleigh to deliver toys to all the good little boys and girls. The boy discovered he'd lost the bell, and was sad. The Polar Express brought him home before dawn. The next morning, he discovered one final present with his name on it. It was the bell! Santa had attached a note, "Found this on the seat of my sleigh. Fix that hole in your pocket."
"Though I've grown older, the bell still rings for me as it does for all who truly believe."
I still believe in Santa . . . don't you?
The Polar Express won the 1986 Caldecott Medal for its outstanding illustrations. These images appear to be a combination of gouache and pastels that create a mysterious, dreamlike feeling in me. They are not the same as a dream though, more like being half-awake in the middle of the night on an overnight train trip and still being a little into a dream. Each image is spread across almost all of a two-page spread with a little text to the side. If you child holds the book close to her or his face, it will be easy to join into the scene.
Live with faith in the true spirit of Christmas every day!