- Age Range: 4 - 7 years
- Grade Level: Preschool - 3
- Lexile Measure: 520L (What's this?)
- Hardcover: 32 pages
- Publisher: Houghton Mifflin; 1st edition (January 1, 1985)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0395389496
- ISBN-13: 978-0395389492
- Product Dimensions: 11.4 x 0.4 x 9 inches
- Shipping Weight: 1.3 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 1,665 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #49,228 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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The Polar Express Hardcover – October 28, 1985
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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.
Top customer reviews
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This is the 25th anniversary edition. It is supposed to come with a CD (attached to the front inside cover) and an ornament. MAKE SURE YOURS HAS THE ORNAMENT, YOU PAID FOR IT! The first copy I received did not come with an ornament so I contacted Amazon and they sent me a new copy. I received the new one today and it had the ornament attached to the inside of the dust jacket in the back of the book. You will NOT receive a bell ornament. The one that comes with this edition says "All Aboard!"
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.
The first key difference is the artwork itself. The book's simple watercolors do not match the rich color and detail of the movie. It is more akin to something that you would see in a children's book from the early 1900s. Even so, it affords the book a certain "antique" quality that is quite in keeping with the timeless story that it tells.
The book's construction is exceptional with heavy, glossy pages held together by a tight binding. The book itself is contained in a very nice dust jacket that conforms very well to the book's shape. This book is perfect for display on a coffee table around the holidays or perhaps in the room with your Christmas tree on a small table.
The book holds an audio CD containing a narration acted by the great Liam Neeson. (He did the voiceover for the lion Aslan in the Narnia movies.) His deeply resonant voice flows like the Polar Express' signature hot chocolate. The CD is perfect for playing in your children's room while they go to sleep or in the car while you drive around a country road taking in holiday lights.
Without providing any spoilers, the book's theme is about the magic of the secular Christmas tradition. In a way, it emphasizes the importance of maintaining a childlike sense of wonder and appreciation for Christmas. While the book is in fact secular, it does contain an underlying message of believing in things that you cannot always see. All in all, I am deeply pleased to give this holiday treasure 5 stars. If you love the movie as much as I love it then you will love this book too.