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on November 1, 2000
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."
My youngest son at ages 4, 5, 6, 7, and 8 has chosen to firmly believe with the narrator, but he's moved around in his reaction to the notion that Santa isn't real. From -- "that's ridiculous, isn't it?" to " is ridiculous, isn't it?" This book will let him hold onto the Christmas spirit for as long as he wants, and to return to it whenever he needs it.
This version comes complete with CD's/tapes with readings. Buy the less expensive edition, add a silver bell, and (if you can), read it with the child yourself to give a really special gift.
A wonderful book for those who want to believe in the spirit of Christmas every day of every year.
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VINE VOICEon January 9, 2000
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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on November 29, 1999
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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on October 17, 2000
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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on December 17, 1999
I volunteered for my daughters KDG class to be a read-aloud parent. The book was chosen for me. When I brought the book home to preview what I was going to be reading to the class, I vowed I would read it at least a dozen times at home first. Otherwise I would have ended the story in my daughter's class with tears streaming down my face as I had the first time I read it, and several times again. This is such a wonderful story and so beautifully illustrated. I decided that the whole class should have a jingle bell from Santa's sleigh. Luckily I found just what I needed at the craft store! I would like to thank the person who chose the book for me to read, for giving me the opportunity to experience this story in such a way that I was passing it along to not only my own children, but to 25 others. I would also like to thank the author for sharing with me a truly special gift. I will continue to recommend this book to everyone I know, and hope that they appreciate it the way I do. P.S. It is also going to be Christmas gifts for a few of my neices and nephews!
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TOP 1000 REVIEWERon November 20, 2002
This is a lovely story. Both the writing and the illustrations are superior. This is one of those books that is definitely worth owning, and in a hardcover version, not a paperback that will wear and tear. Parents: it is a keeper, one that you will save for years and to read to your future grandchildren.
The story is of a boy's journey on a mysterious train, the Polar Express, that takes children (adorned in their pajamas) to the North Pole to Santa's village. I won't spoil the story by telling any more...
There are loads of Christmas themed children's books out there for this age range. Many are mediocre or just plain garbage. This book is in the superior category and a "must own".
Knowing nothing about this story, both my son and I were drawn to it because of his love of trains. If you don't know the story, just be aware it introduces the idea that not all people believe in Santa Claus. This was the first time my (then) three-year-old learned that not everyone believes, whether they are adults or children. It also explains that as some people grow older they change from a believer to a non-believer. Just know that before reading the story to your child. For us it introduced the idea of non-believing. Another family I know read the book after an older child told this young child there is no Santa Claus, and the book helped deal with the issue of when some believe and some don't believe.
The gift pack we purchased had the audio version on CD. Narrator-actor William Hurt's voice is wonderful, slow and flowing...just right to evoke the mood of the story! There is also a CD-ROM for the computer (sold separately), which is a read-aloud story with images that my children watch a handful of times per Christmas season.
The gift pack also comes with a Christmas tree ornament. My children are thrilled to have a Polar Express related ornament to adorn our Christmas tree because they love trains and they love this story.
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on November 27, 1998
"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 ...." And so begins one the of the most beautiful stories of all time. Although I am now a senior in college, The Polar Express has remained the most valued and cherished book in my ever-expanding library. A childhood Christmas gift, Chris Van Allsburg's timeless masterpiece has become a fixture at our family gatherings each and every holiday season. Every member of the family, from the youngest to the oldest, appreciates it's simple but elegant story-telling style illustrated by the soft and soothing silhouettes of Van Allsburg's full-color art. The Polar Express is the story of a young boy and his magical journey aboard a mythical train to the North Pole. The reader is taken along this incredible ride and rediscovers the true joy and pure spirit of a child at Christmas. Van Allsburg's beautiful illustrations become as important to the story as the words themselves. These life-like pictures encourage children of ALL ages to explore their own imaginations and to become active participants in the young boy's journey. In the end, the young boy has grown into an old man, but the spirit of Christmas still rings for him, "... as it does for all who truly believe." I hope you enjoy this book half as much as I do.
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on July 26, 2002
This is the best christmas book ever written. I could simply stop there and enough would be said.

I discovered this book in 1985 before the world told me that Santa was only for children. I fell in love with the book the first time it was read to me. However, I did not aquire a copy of my own until I was about 16. By this time I no longer believed in Santa and had not read the book in years. I was wandering through my local book store and saw the familiar cover. I instantly smiled and something happened. I bought the book and took it home. I read the book and cried. I remembered Santa. I remembered how to believe.

It has been 5 years since I "discovered" this book again and I read is all the time now; in the summer and winter. I share the magic of The Polar Express with all of my friends. I even give sleigh bells to friends at Christmas who I think need a boost in their faith.

I highly recommend this book for all ages.
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on October 17, 2001
This book is one of the most magical children's books I have ever come across! As soon as you open the front cover, you enter an exquisite world that has an almost dream-like quality to it. It is told in the first person point of view of an adult recounting his most memorable Christmas experience. And what an experience! The boy in the story is awakened one Christmas Eve by a train whistle and discovers the Polar Express waiting to take him to the North Pole to see Santa. Once there, the boy is chosen to receive the first gift of Christmas. The boy has a touchingly simple request --to have one of the bells from the harness of Santa's reindeer. It is given to him, and he is filled with joy! Yet, on the way home, the boy discovers that there is a hole in the pocket of his bathrobe, and he has lost the treasured bell.He is heart broken. The next morning he finds the bell in a box under the tree, and he rejoices in the new-found bell and its marvelous sound! The catch? Only those who truly believe in the magic of Santa can hear the sound of the bell.
I read this story every year to my children, and every year there is absolute silence as they listen, entranced, to this deceptively simple story. Afterward, they always beg to hear it again and again! They are fascinated by the beautiful illustrations and the language of this very moving story. I have a CD with my version and Liam Neeson does a beautiful job of reading the book, along with superb background sounds and effects that will make you feel as if you had taken the journey yourself. You will not for a minute regret buying this book--I guarantee it will become a treasured favorite with your children!As an adult it will fill you with a wistful yearning to go back to your childhood and experience once again the magic of being a child.
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on December 2, 2014
They're not joking when they say "Big Book"! WOW! I should have looked at the reviews before purchasing, I certainly did not expect or need a book of this size, but it's beautiful and great quality.

When this huge box from Amazon showed up, I assumed Amazon was out of smaller shipping boxes. My husband and I couldn't stop laughing when we pulled this book out of the box.

This book is perfect for large audiences (classrooms). Depending on your size, you may need help holding and turning the pages - my husband is 6 foot and he would have benefited from having an assistant page turner.
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