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The Polar Express Hardcover – October 28, 1985


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Product Details

  • Age Range: 4 - 8 years
  • Grade Level: Kindergarten - 3
  • Lexile Measure: 520L (What's this?)
  • Hardcover: 32 pages
  • Publisher: Houghton Mifflin; 1st edition (October 28, 1985)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0395389496
  • ISBN-13: 978-0395389492
  • Product Dimensions: 11.4 x 0.1 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (752 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #110 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

One couldn't select a more delightful and exciting premise for a children's book than the tale of a young boy lying awake on Christmas Eve only to have Santa Claus sweep by and take him on a trip with other children to the North Pole. And one couldn't ask for a more talented artist and writer to tell the story than Chris Van Allsburg. Allsburg, a sculptor who entered the genre nonchalantly when he created a children's book as a diversion from his sculpting, won the 1986 Caldecott Medal for this book, one of several award winners he's produced. The Polar Express rings with vitality and wonder.



Amazon Exclusive: A Letter from Chris Van Allsburg

Dear Amazon Readers,

Over the past twenty-five years, many people have shared stories with me about the effect that reading The Polar Express has had on their families and on their celebration of Christmas.

One of the most poignant was told to me five or six years ago at a book signing in the Midwest, on a snowy December evening. As I inscribed a book to a woman in her sixties, she told me that it was the second copy she had owned, and wanted to know if she could she tell me what had happened to the first. "Of course," I answered.

A dozen years earlier the woman, who had no children of her own, befriended a neighbor, a boy of about seven, named Eddie. He would often cross his driveway to visit her.

She had a collection of picture books, which she read to him, but around the holidays, the only story he ever wanted to hear, over and over, was The Polar Express. One year she offered to give him the book, but Eddie declined because he wanted to hear her read it aloud to him, which she continued to do every year until the boy and his family moved away.

Years later the woman learned from a mutual acquaintance that Eddie had grown up and become a soldier. He was stationed in Iraq. Since Christmas was approaching, the woman decided to send him a gift box. She included candy, cookies, socks, and her old copy of The Polar Express. She wasn't sure what a nineteen-year-old battle-weary soldier would do with the book in an army barracks in the Middle East, but she wanted him to have it. A month later, after the holidays had passed, she received a letter from Eddie.

He told her he was very happy to have heard from her and to get the box of gifts. He had opened it in his barracks, just before curfew, with some of his fellow GIs already in their bunks. A soldier in the next bunk spotted the book. He knew it well from his own childhood and asked Eddie to read it. "Out loud?" he asked. "Yeah," his buddy told him.

Eddie, quietly and a little self-consciously, read The Polar Express. When he'd finished and closed the book, a moment of silence passed. Then from behind him a voice called out, "Read it again," and another joined in, "Yeah, read it again," and a third added, "This time, louder." So Eddie did.

He wrote to the woman that he'd stood up and read it to his comrades just the way he remembered she had read it to him.

All aboard,

Chris Van Allsburg




Recipes and Activities to Celebrate the 25th Anniversary of The Polar Express


(Click on Images for the Recipe or Activity [PDF])

Snacks for Santa

Candy Cane Sugar Cookies

Polar Chocolate Nougat Caramel Squares

Christmas Snowball Cookies


Fun and Games

A Polar Express Word Search

A Polar Express Crossword

A Polar Express Maze



From School Library Journal

Grade 1-3 Given a talented and aggressive imagination, even the challenge of as cliche-worn a subject as Santa Claus can be met effectively. Van Allsburg's Polar Express is an old-fashioned steam train that takes children to the North Pole on Christmas Eve to meet the red-suited gentleman and to see him off on his annual sleigh ride. This is a personal retelling of the adult storyteller's adventures as a youngster on that train. The telling is straight, thoughtfully clean-cut and all the more mysterious for its naive directness; the message is only a bit less direct: belief keeps us young at heart. The full-page images are theatrically lit. Colors are muted, edges of forms are fuzzy, scenes are set sparsely, leaving the details to the imagination. The light comes only from windows of buildings and the train or from a moon that's never depicted. Shadows create darkling spaces and model the naturalistic figures of children, wolves, trees, old-fashioned furniture and buildings. Santa Claus and his reindeer seem like so many of the icons bought by parents to decorate yards and rooftops: static, posed with stereotypic gestures. These are scenes from a memory of long ago, a dreamy reconstruction of a symbolic experience, a pleasant remembrance rebuilt to fufill a current wish: if only you believe, you too will hear the ringing of the silver bell that Santa gave him and taste rich hot chocolate in your ride through the wolf-infested forests of reality. Van Allsburg's express train is one in which many of us wish to believe. Kenneth Marantz, Art Education Department, Ohio State University, Columbus
Copyright 2002 Reed Business Information, Inc.

More About the Author

Chris Van Allsburg is the winner of two Caldecott Medals, for Jumanji and The Polar Express, as well as the recipient of a Caldecott Honor Book for The Garden of Abdul Gasazi. The author and illustrator of numerous picture books for children, he has also been awarded the Regina Medal for lifetime achievement in children's literature. In 1982, Jumanji won the National Book Award and in 1996, it was made into a popular feature film. Chris Van Allsburg was formerly an instructor at the Rhode Island School of Design. He lives in Rhode Island with his wife and two children.

Customer Reviews

Beautiful illustrations and a wonderful story!
videogator
Read this wonderful book to my children every Christmas season and now reading it to my grandchildren.
Jan Yechout
All children enjoy reading or listening to this story book.
alexandria north

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

218 of 225 people found the following review helpful By Quaker Annie on November 1, 2000
Format: Paperback
This book opens the possibility that Santa Claus -- as presented to most of us -- may not physically exist. It does this in a way that will allow children and their parents to ease into that question, a graceful move from the belief in a living St. Nick, to a belief in the spirit of Christmas.
It begins like this: "On Christmas Eve, many years ago, I lay quietly in my bed. I did not rustle the sheets. I breathed slowly and silently. I was listening for a sound -- a sound a friend had told me I'd never hear -- the ringing of Santa's sleigh.
'There is no Santa,' my friend had insisted, but I knew he was wrong."
From here, we follow a beautifully illustrated story of this young boy's quiet night ride with other children, on the Polar Express train to the North Pole, a "huge city standing alone at the top of the world, filled with factories where every Christmas toy was made."
Our narrator is the fortunate child, picked by Santa, to receive the first gift of that Christmas. He knows exactly what he wants, a simple gift that will help him continue to believe in the magic of Christmas, a silver bell from a reindeer's harness.
He gets his wish, but loses it on the train ride home. However, there's a happy ending -- evidently Santa has found the bell, and put it under the tree. The boy and his little sister admire the beauty of the sound it makes, but their parents say, "Oh, that's too bad....It's broken."
Many years later, the boy's sister and all of his friends can no longer hear the bell.
"Though I've grown old, the bell still rings for me as it does for all who truly believe.
Read more ›
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98 of 102 people found the following review helpful By Wayne A. Smith VINE VOICE on January 9, 2000
Format: Hardcover
My kids love the art and the story is enchanting.
A wonderful train ride full of children who want to believe churns its way to the North Pole and a meeting with Santa. Keeping with traditon, Santa selects one boy to present the first present of Christmas to before he mounts to the sky to visit all the homes of good boys and girls. Rather than ask for a bike, or Pokemon or any other "big" gift, the boy asks for one of Santa's sleigh bells, proof he can hold onto that yes, Santa does exist.
This tale of Christmas belief (in Santa, that is) works well on adults, too. It has a message about belief and wonderment that touch all who want to believe in the magic associated with the gift giving part of Christmas.
Warning, The Polar Express is best for children a little older than mine (5 1/2, 4). It introduces the concept that Santa may not exist. I get around this by not reading two paragraphs in the book, but you should be forwarned if that particular discussion in your household is several years away. (My kids also tell me everytime that the boy in the story should not get on the train at the invitation of a stranger.) At the right age, this is a magical and wonderful Christmas tale of belief.
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62 of 63 people found the following review helpful By Kathleen Teer Egan on November 29, 1999
Format: Hardcover
I started reading this book to my children 15 years ago when they were toddlers. I would keep it with my Christmas decorations and bring it out every holiday season. Once they grew too old to be read to, I still brought it out every year and put it on the coffee table. Last year I started reading it to my two-year old son. I still cry with nostaligia each time I read The Polar Express, remembering the magic it held for my older children and how we read it over and over. Well, my second son loved it so much, it never go put away with the Christmas decorations. We read it together constantly, even during the summer! This is a book that never loses its magic -- for children and adults alike. I plan to give this book to my neices and nephews this Christmas.
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39 of 40 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on October 17, 2000
Format: Hardcover
It is far too easy to express cynicism about Christmas. Likewise, it is far too easy to put down the Christmas season as too commercial. And it is far too easy to dismiss a seasonal gem such as The Polar Express as simplistic and sentimental. But this tale is one of belief, of keeping something which is childlike, not childish, and that just doesn't grow old.
The narrator, a boy, lies awake listening for the sound of the bells on Santa's sleigh, a sound a friend who doesn't believe in Santa Claus says that he won't hear. Indeed, he does not, but what he does hear is even more wonderful and remarkable. He hears the hiss of steam and the squeak of metal, and when he looks out the window, he sees a train outside his house. It is the Polar Express, heading for the North Pole.
Once aboard, he finds that it is full of children, all in their nightclothes. They sing Christmas carols, drink cocoa and eat candies as the train races northward. Finally, they arrive at the North Pole, and the narrator is selected to receive the first gift of Christmas. He asks for, and receives from Santa Claus himself, a silver bell from the sleigh.
Although the boy loses the bell on the way home, kindly Santa returns it to him, and the boy discovers that the bell has a remarkable quality. Only those who still believe in the wonder of Santa and the spirit of Christmas can hear the bell. His friends and his sister eventually cannot hear the bell, but even when he grows up "the bell still rings for [him] as it does for all who truly believe."
The story is accompanied by beautiful pictures that capture the nighttime journey. The author employs somber tones in most of his scenes, speckled with snow and highlighted with starlight and the glowing lights of the train. He captures the cold and mystery of the night, contrasting it with the warm interior scenes.
Every child should own this book. It is a magical story that they can appreciate for the rest of their lives.
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