25 Days – Book 19: The Polar Express

Before we look at today’s book, dear readers, you must do something. If you have seen the 2004 movie, The Polar Express, I need you to forget it. Erase it from your mind completely. Whether you liked the movie or not, you must pretend that you never saw it. This is very important for you to experience the real story, the book that is, which is quite different and ever so much more wonderful than the odd movie version. Forget it all.

Ok, now let’s talk about our book for day 19, The Polar Express by Chris Van Allsburg. This book was created in 1985 and it is magical. Yes, truly magical.

It all begins in a little boy’s bedroom as he waits quietly and listens. The sound he is hoping to hear is one that his friend told him doesn’t exist, the sound of bells from Santa’s sleigh. He wanted his friend to be wrong, so he strains to listen. And he does hear a sound, but it isn’t bells. It is the sound of hissing steam and squeaking metal… the Polar Express.

Aboard the train, the story takes off. The Polar Express is a magical train that carries certain children to the North Pole to see Santa give away the first gift of Christmas.


This book is about the journey, the anticipation, the hope, and all the sensational feelings that come wrapped up with Christmas when you are a child. Like I said friends, it is magical. Whether you believed in Santa or not, or whether you even deal with Santa at your house, this book is delightful. The story speaks to something that I often feel we forget as we become adults, the magic of believing in something fantastic. The Polar Express doesn’t have to be true to be thrilling; nor does Santa have to be real—or believed to be real—to be enjoyed. Imagination, wondering, being surprised and awestruck—I wish I had bottled those feelings from childhood and could open them up occasionally to remind me of the little delights I’ve usually left behind.

When I first encountered this book, my breath was taken away. Not only by the pictures, which make every artist shudder at the beautiful details, but also by the intensely emotional and almost poetic text. The story is brilliantly written to leave a space for imagination between what the text describes and what the images portray. A true master created this and wants you along for the ride.

As the author of Jumanji, Zathura, The Garden of Abdul Gasazi and many more; Chris Van Allsburg is a pro at creating original, fantastical worlds we can only dream of. As a two-time Caldecott Medal winner and also a Caldecott Honor Winner, Van Allsburg’s art is known to be stunning. With incredible details and realistic images, Chris Van Allsburg creates otherwordly stories that very nearly convince you of their possibility of occurring.

Let yourself be carried away by The Polar Express and listen once again for the magical tinkling of sleigh bells.

Follow along our book adventure at 25 Days of Christmas Books.

One thought on “25 Days – Book 19: The Polar Express

  1. You are absolutely correct! The book far outweighs the movie and is much more magical! It makes a wonderful picture book for the non-reader, but also carries away the older imaginations with its fast moving journey, pausing to tuck in the dream of many little adventures!
    Great book!


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