Monday, December 10, 2007

The Polar Express – Chris Van Allsburg

© 1985, Houghton Mifflin, Boston

I’ve started my Christmas reading (as you can see from the Leisure Reading section below) and kicked it off with a great book from the children’s section. This one is a Caldecott Winner and rightly so. The illustrations in this beautiful story seem to put the story itself to shame. Van Allsburg paints beautiful renderings of the city, the forest, the North Pole, and Santa.

The idea that believing in Santa allows you to hear the sleighbells is precious. This is not a book about staying a boy a la Peter Pan, but rather an encouragement for the young at heart to continue believing in Santa. It’s about Santa Claus, Christmas, Trains, and all that makes Christmas a happy time.

I had wanted to read the book for several years but not until we rented the Tom Hanks movie version did I decide to get and read the book. The details in the movie enhance the book, so I’d highly recommend watching with your kids—they’ll love it and so will you. The movie doesn’t rip tears from your eyes like most of the holiday fare is designed to do, it just pulls you into the world of Christmas and the Christmas spirit.

The book, on the other hand, while lacking in literary detail should be highly prized on your shelf for the story the illustrations tell. If you were to see the pictures in order without the words accompanying, you’d still be able to craft a wonderful Christmas bedtime story. Try it. And while you’re at it give Van Allsburg 4 ¾ yuletide reading glasses for the inspiration.

—Benjamin Potter, December 10, 2007

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