The Polar Express by Chris Van Allsburg
|The Polar Express by Chris Van Allsburg|
|Category: For Sharing|
|Reviewer: Keith Dudhnath|
|Summary: A Christmas classic that will charm every child and adult alike. The accompanying CD read by Liam Neeson is an absolute joy.|
|Buy? Yes||Borrow? Yes|
|Pages: 32||Date: September 2010|
|Publisher: Andersen Press|
|External links: Author's website|
It's Christmas Eve, and a young boy is waiting up to catch a glimpse of Santa. When a train pulls up instead, he soon finds himself on the Polar Express, chuffing away to the North Pole, with scores of other children. With hot chocolate in hand, and snowy landscapes whizzing past the windows, he's having a fabulous journey. At the North Pole, he meets the elves and Santa, and waits to see which child will be given the first gift of Christmas.
The Polar Express is rightly a Christmas classic. Since it was first published 25 years ago, it has become a staple of so many childhood Christmases, and has also been made into a feature film starring Tom Hanks. It's no surprise why: there's lashings of Christmas spirit, a delightfully gentle plot, all the charm and excitement that snow brings, and an original slant on the visit to Santa theme. It's magical to imagine the bell that only those who believe in Santa can hear, and it might just help sow a little seed of doubt for those who've heard the rumour that Father Christmas might not be real. It's beautifully written - longer than the average picture book, but eminently suitable for all ages. It's perfect for cuddling up together and reading, however big your little ones might be.
Chris Val Allsburg's illustrations are beautiful. The paintings exude all the classical sights of a snowy Christmas, but never feel clichéd. A few small touches aside, it could easily have been drawn in Victorian times. It's somewhat contradictory to call that a timeless quality, but it's the archetypal Christmas that everyone hankers after: the gentle smattering of snow, children in dressing gowns eagerly unwrapping a few choice presents under a dark green tree, and childhood wonder by the bucketload. If you're not whistling carols and wondering if it's too early to be making (and scoffing) mince pies, after reading The Polar Express, then there's something wrong with you!
The icing on the Christmas cake is the accompanying CD, read by Liam Neeson. I'm always a fan of a free audiobook, and to have someone of such a high calibre reading it is an absolute treat. As wonderful as the book is, it's almost better just to fire up the CD player, close your eyes, and lose yourself in your imagination. Throw in a crackling log fire, roasting chestnuts, and some hot chocolate with marshmallows, and you'll have a great time. Highly recommended.
My thanks to the publishers for sending it to Bookbag.
Christmas classics you say? How the Grinch Stole Christmas! by Dr Seuss, The Night Before Christmas by Rachel Isadora and Clement Clarke Moore, The First Christmas by Jan Pienkowski, and Nut Cracker by David Walser and Jan Pienkowski are all magnificent choices. We're also big fans of The Happiest Man in the World or the Mouse Who Made Christmas by Mij Kelly and Louise Nisbet, Bear's First Christmas by Robert Kinerk and Jim LaMarche and Cub's First Winter by Rebecca Elliott.
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