Weekly Trip to the Library
This is a wonderful book to read with kids that are not too young because the book questions if Santa is real. My nanny employer has told me the phrase, "There is no Santa," will never pass her lips. So, it might be better to read it to older kids who may be questioning if Santa is real arleady. They will beleive by the end of the book.
It is far too easy to express cynicism about Christmas. Likewise, it is far too easy to put down the Christmas season as too commercial. And it is far too easy to dismiss a seasonal gem such as The Polar Express as simplistic and sentimental. But this tale is one of belief, of keeping something which is childlike, not childish, and that just doesn't grow old.
The narrator, a boy, lies awake listening for the sound of the bells on Santa's sleigh, a sound a friend who doesn't believe in Santa Claus says that he won't hear. Indeed, he does not, but what he does hear is even more wonderful and remarkable. He hears the hiss of steam and the squeak of metal, and when he looks out the window, he sees a train outside his house. It is the Polar Express, heading for the North Pole.
Once aboard, he finds that it is full of children, all in their nightclothes. They sing Christmas carols, drink cocoa and eat candies as the train races northward. Finally, they arrive at the North Pole, and the narrator is selected to receive the first gift of Christmas. He asks for, and receives from Santa Claus himself, a silver bell from the sleigh.
Although the boy loses the bell on the way home, kindly Santa returns it to him, and the boy discovers that the bell has a remarkable quality. Only those who still believe in the wonder of Santa and the spirit of Christmas can hear the bell. His friends and his sister eventually cannot hear the bell, but even when he grows up "the bell still rings for [him] as it does for all who truly believe."
The story is accompanied by beautiful pictures that capture the nighttime journey. The author employs somber tones in most of his scenes, speckled with snow and highlighted with starlight and the glowing lights of the train. He captures the cold and mystery of the night, contrasting it with the warm interior scenes.
Every child should own this book. It is a magical story that they can appreciate for the rest of their lives.