The Polar Express
|Author||Chris Van Allsburg|
|Illustrator||Chris Van Allsburg|
|Cover artist||Chris Van Allsburg|
|Genre||Children's picture book|
|LC Class||PZ7.V266 Po 1985|
|Preceded by||The Mysteries of Harris Burdick|
|Followed by||The Stranger|
The Polar Express is a 1985 children's book (ISBN 0-86264-143-8) written and illustrated by Chris Van Allsburg, a former professor at the Rhode Island School of Design. The book is now widely considered to be a classic Christmas story for young children. It was praised for its detailed illustrations and calm, relaxing storyline. In 1986, it was awarded the Caldecott Medal for children's literature. Based on a 2007 online poll, the National Education Association named the book one of its "Teachers' Top 100 Books for Children." It was one of the "Top 100 Picture Books" of all time in a 2012 poll by School Library Journal.
The book is set partially in Grand Rapids, Michigan, the author's home town. It was adapted as an Oscar-nominated motion-capture film in 2004 starring Tom Hanks and directed by Robert Zemeckis with Van Allsburg serving as an executive producer on the film. At the premier of the movie, VanAllsburg stated that the Pere Marquette #1225, formerly owned by Michigan State University and now owned by the Steam Railroading Institute in Owosso, Michigan, was the inspiration for the story line. He played on the engine as a child when it was on display and was inspired by the number 1225, which to him was 12/25, Christmas Day. The real 1225 was used to create the animated image of the engine and all the locomotive sounds were recorded from the 1225.
As the story starts off, a young boy, who used to adore Christmas, hears a train whistle roar. To his astonishment, he finds the train is waiting for him. He sees a conductor who then proceeds to look up at his window. He runs downstairs and goes outside. The conductor explains the train is called the Polar Express, and is journeying to the North Pole. The boy then boards the train, which is filled with chocolate and candy, as well as many other children in their pajamas.
As the train reaches the North Pole, the boy and the other children see thousands of Christmas elves gathered at the center of town waiting to send Santa Claus on his way. The boy is handpicked by Santa to receive the first gift of Christmas. Realizing that he could choose anything in the world, the boy asks for one bell from one of the reindeer's harnesses. The boy places the bell in the pocket of his robe and all the children watch as Santa takes off into the night for his annual deliveries.
Later, on the train ride home, the boy discovers that the bell has fallen through a hole in his pocket. The boy arrives home and goes to his bedroom as the train pulls away. On Christmas morning, his sister finds a small package for the boy under the tree, behind all of the other gifts. The boy opens the box and discovers that it is the bell, delivered by Santa who found it on the seat of his sleigh. When the boy rings the bell, both he and his sister marvel at the beautiful sound. His parents, however, are unable to hear the bell and remark that it must be broken. The book ends with a famous line, which was also used in the film adaptation:
At one time, most of my friends could hear the bell, but as years passed, it fell silent for all of them. Even Sarah found one Christmas that she could no longer hear its sweet sound. Though I've grown old, the bell still rings for me, as it does for all who truly believe.
- Sullivan, Kathleen (November 12, 2004). "'Polar Express' author to discuss book's trip to screen". San Francisco Chronicle. Retrieved November 18, 2011.
- Association for Library Service to Children. "Caldecott Medal & Honor Books, 1938-Present". American Library Association. Retrieved August 24, 2012.
- National Education Association (2007). "Teachers' Top 100 Books for Children". Retrieved August 22, 2012.
- Bird, Elizabeth (July 6, 2012). "Top 100 Picture Books Poll Results". School Library Journal "A Fuse #8 Production" blog. Retrieved August 22, 2012.
Saint George and the Dragon
|Caldecott Medal recipient