The Polar Express
by Chris Van Allsburg
The Polar Express is a popular children's book, as well as a heartwarming animated film, that has become a holiday classic. It tells the magical tale of a young boy's extraordinary journey to the North Pole on a mysterious train called the Polar Express.
It was written by Chris Van Allsburg - American writer and illustrator of children's books, and first published in 1985. Chris was also the executive producer for the film adaptation of the book in 2004 (see video).
The story is set on Christmas Eve and follows a young boy who begins to question his belief in Santa Claus. He lies awake in his bedroom, listening for the sound of sleigh bells, but he cannot hear them. His doubt starts to grow.
Suddenly, he hears a thunderous noise outside, and to his amazement, he finds a magnificent steam train called the Polar Express waiting for him in front of his house. The train is filled with other children, all in their pajamas, and a mysterious conductor. The conductor invites the boy to embark on a journey to the North Pole, where Santa Claus resides. The boy, though initially hesitant, decides to board the train.
During the magical journey to the North Pole, the children on the train experience a series of enchanting adventures, including a visit from the train's chefs, who serve a sumptuous hot chocolate feast, and encounters with the train's friendly and quirky staff. As the train races through a snowy, moonlit landscape, their anticipation builds.
Upon arriving at the North Pole, the children are filled with awe as they witness Santa Claus and his reindeer preparing for their annual Christmas Eve journey. The story climaxes with the boy receiving a special gift from Santa himself: a silver bell from Santa's sleigh. He is chosen to receive this gift because, as Santa explains, only those who truly believe in him can hear the sound of the bell.
The children reboard the Polar Express and return home, and the boy is filled with a sense of wonder and renewed belief in the magic of Christmas. Over the years, the bell gradually loses its sound for everyone else, but for those who truly believe, like the boy, it continues to ring with the beautiful sound of Christmas.
- Belief and Imagination: The story emphasizes the importance of belief, imagination, and the magic of childhood. It encourages readers and viewers to hold on to their sense of wonder and faith in the extraordinary, even as they grow older.
- Christmas Spirit: The story captures the essence of the Christmas season, including themes of joy, giving, and the spirit of togetherness. It inspires a sense of holiday magic and adventure.
- Friendship and Adventure: The friendships formed on the Polar Express and the thrilling adventures experienced by the children make the story engaging and heartwarming.
- Iconic Illustrations: Chris Van Allsburg's detailed and captivating illustrations in the book, along with the beautifully animated adaptation, contribute to the story's timeless appeal.
- Film Adaptation: In 2004, "The Polar Express" was adapted into an adventurous animated film directed by Robert Zemeckis. The film features groundbreaking motion-capture technology, which brings the characters to life in a visually stunning way.
"The Polar Express" is a valued part of holiday traditions for many families, reminding both children and adults of the importance of belief, kindness, and the lasting enchantment of Christmas. It continues to be celebrated through readings, film viewings, and themed train rides during the holiday season.