Gather round for an Extraordinary Adventure, circa Christmas 1908, Abilene, Texas. The players are a boy named Art (devoted to "the making of inventions, the quest for adventure, and the fighting and smashing of crime"); his best friend, a Comanche boy named Spaulding; and Art's scorned little sister, Esther. One dusty December day, they find a huge wooden crate accompanied by a note that says, "Open the box. Assemble the contents. Come NORTH. Yours, S.C." The next thing you know, the intrepid trio sets off for the North Pole in the freshly assembled Yuletide Flyer, at Santa's cryptic request. Let the swashbuckling adventure begin! Santa's home is the glittering metropolis of Toyland, described as "the best of the old, the best of the new, and the best that is yet to be." But what's this? Dark Elves and their evil Queen? No one bargained for danger in the North Pole. After a dashing display of heroic and ingenious maneuvering, however, the three children are delivered back home in time for Christmas. But why did Santa call in the first place? He tells them, "Some secrets are best left unsolved." The real secret of this rollicking Christmas tale lies in two facsimile letters attached at the end of the book--Esther's touching note to Santa and his reply. Beloved illustrator William Joyce, creator of George Shrinks
and Dinosaur Bob
, has managed an unusual feat: an original Christmas story, breathtaking artwork, and adventure tale all rolled into one. (Ages 5 to 9)
From Kirkus Reviews
Joyce's version of a ride on the Polar Express is more style than substance. Just before Christmas, 1908, dashing boy-inventor Art Atchinson Ainsworth; his best friend, Comanche brave Spaulding Littlefeets; and his scorned little sister Esther receive an invitation (complete with futuristic flying machine) to visit Santa. Their visit is climaxed by Esther's dramatic rescue from the Dark Elves and their evil Queen. ``But why did you call for us?'' Art wants to know. Santa answers, ``Some secrets are best left unsolved.'' Art never finds out, but readers do, in two appended letters from Esther (``Dear Santa...what I really wish for is for my brother Art to be my friend'') and Santa (``I'm glad our little adventure did the trick''). Readers may be disappointed to find so unsurprising a gift in such glorious wrapping, but the huge illustrations, rendered with Joyce's usual cinematic, art-deco sensibility, burst with exuberant crowds and visual fanfares, melodramatic poses and clever jokes. Figures have the gloss and solidity of polished wooden models: Art looks like Will Rogers, and Santa like a benevolent tycoon, while the skies over Ozlike Toyland are filled with searchlights and fanciful balloons. Read quickly; linger over the art. (Picture book. 7+) -- Copyright ©1993, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved.