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The Polar Express by Chris Van Allsburg

The Polar Express (original 1985; edition 2009)

by Chris Van Allsburg

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5,517361788 (4.36)54
Title:The Polar Express
Authors:Chris Van Allsburg
Info:Houghton Mifflin (2009), Edition: 1st, Hardcover, 32 pages
Collections:Your library
Tags:Christmas, Caldecott, picture book, adventure

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The Polar Express by Chris Van Allsburg (1985)


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The book begins with a boy that was told by his classmates that Santa did not exist, and his attempts to keep his beliefs. While going to bed one snowy night, he hears a train that says they will take him to the North Pole. On the train were many other children, all going to the same place - to see Santa at the North Pole - and to have the chance to receive the first gift of Christmas. The children push through the crowd of elves to get to be in front of Santa, who chooses the boy to receive the very first gift of the holiday. The boy only wanted one thing - a bell off of the reindeer's harness. When the children get back on the train to go home, they all wanted to see the bell that he had gotten, but to his surprise, he found a hole in the pocket where the bell should have been. The next morning, the boy wakes up to find a bell under the Christmas tree that only he and his little sister could hear. His parents just assumed it was broken as only those that truly believe in Santa could hear its ring.

Personal Reaction:
I have always loved this book. It is something I have cherished throughout my childhood, and even through my adulthood. It has a strong message of belief, and that no matter what others have to say, you should always stand for what you believe in, even if others may not.

Extension Ideas:
1. The students can draw what they would ask for, if they had been chosen by Santa to receive the first gift of Christmas.
2. The children can write their letters to Santa that the teacher can later give to their parents in secrecy, or through email. ( )
  kendall.jones | Jul 13, 2017 |
One Christmas Eve many years ago, a boy lies in bed, listening hard for the bells of Santa’s sleigh, which he has been told by a friend do not exist. Later that night he hears not bells but a very different sound. He looks out his window and is astounded to see a steam engine parked in front of his house! The conductor invites him to board the Polar Express, a train filled with children on their way to the North Pole.The train takes the children to the center of the city, where Santa and the elves have gathered for the giving of the first gift of Christmas. The boy is chosen to receive this first gift. Knowing that he can choose anything in the world, he decides on a simple gift: one silver bell from Santa’s sleigh. Santa cuts a bell from a reindeer’s harness and the delighted boy slips it into his bathrobe pocket as the clock strikes midnight and the reindeer pull the sleigh into the sky.When the children return to the train, the boy realizes the bell has fallen through a hole in his pocket. Heartbroken, he is returned to his home. In the morning, his little sister finds one small box with the boy’s name on it among the presents. Inside is the silver bell! The boy and his sister are enchanted by its beautiful sound, but their parents cannot hear it. The boy continues to believe in the spirit of Christmas and is able to hear the sweet ringing of the bell even as an adult.

This is one of my all time favorite books and movies. I watch it every Christmas and read the Christmas edition that comes with a bell. I think that I just like the meaning behind something is that there is always something you can believe in.

Extension Idea 1: Christmas Name Trains: Christmas Name Train

Materials needed: One Polar Express Name Train.pdf (linked above) for each student, white crayons, liquid glue, and glitter (can omit, if desired).

Print the Polar Express Name Train.pdf and have the children write their name with a white crayon. Outline the names with liquid glue (assist young children if needed). Have the children shake glitter (if desired) over the glue and let dry overnight.

When dry, the children can use their trains as homemade rubbing plates. Place the train on a clipboard with a white sheet of paper on top. Have the children use crayons to gently rub over the train until their name appears.

Extension Idea 2: The First Gift

Give each child a bell after the story and string it on red yarn or ribbon. Tell the children that the bells will serve as a reminder for each child to do at least one special kindness each day. Make a kindness box from an empty tissue box and wrap it in green and red paper. The children can stamp or write upper or lowercase C’s on a paper Christmas tree when another child (or adult) has done something extra special for them. Instead of writing a “C,” students could also write or copy the person’s name on the tree. Before Christmas, or before a winter break, count all of the trees in the kindness box and prepare a special treat/card or gift to deliver to another person (it could be a friend, a neighbor, and elderly person, another teacher, the custodian, the office staff, etc.).
  chandra_B | Jul 13, 2017 |
the classic story of a boy riding on a train to the north pole for christmas
1 book
  TUCC | Jun 1, 2017 |
On Christmas Eve a boy struggles to stay awake, intent on hearing the jingle of bells from Santa’s sleigh. What he hears instead are the sounds of “hissing steam and squeaking metal,” and when he goes to the window he sees a train pulled up outside his house! Grabbing his robe and slippers he ventures outside and is just in time to climb aboard before the train sets off for the North Pole.

What a lovely Christmas story; it reminds children (and adults) of the magical power of belief. I wish I could still hear the jingle of bells.

The illustrations are richly detailed. I enjoyed examining each picture, looking for the train as it moves across the landscape. The expressions on the faces of the children aboard the train were marvelous, whether filled with excitement, or consoling the boy on the trip back home. ( )
  BookConcierge | May 9, 2017 |
The Polar Express is a classic book about a boy going on a train ride on Christmas Eve. It is full of adventure and keeps you on your toes the whole time. ( )
  kendallkerley | Apr 13, 2017 |
Showing 1-5 of 360 (next | show all)
Mr. Van Allsburg works effectively combining the sinister and the sentimental, but it would take a poet-sociologist to explain precisely why these dark, moody sculptural pastels somehow evoke feelings of glad tidings and joy.
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To Karen
First words
On Christmas Eve, many years ago, I lay quietly in my bed.
"Soon there were no more lights to be seen. We traveled through cold, dark forests, where lean wolves roamed and white-tailed rabbits hid from our train as it thundered through the quiet wilderness."
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0395389496, Hardcover)

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.

25th Anniversary Edition Includes
To commemorate this special anniversary, a lavish gift edition has been created. The set includes a silver foil border, a CD audio recording read by Liam Neeson, a note from Chris Van Allsburg, and a silvery keepsake "All Aboard" ornament.

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
Hot Chocolate

Fun and Games
A Polar Express Word Search
A Polar Express Crossword
A Polar Express Maze
A Polar Express Drawing Sheet

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:06:24 -0400)

(see all 6 descriptions)

A magical train ride on Christmas Eve takes a boy to the North Pole to receive a special gift from Santa Claus.

(summary from another edition)

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