A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this book.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know The Polar Express, by Chris van Allsburg (Jumanji), won the 1986 Caldecott Medal and was adapted for a 2004 film. Its lush drawings of the winter world seen through the eyes of a child complement the quietly elegant story of a boy who takes a magical train ride to the North Pole on Christmas Eve. The special 30th anniversary edition includes a golden ornament and an audio version read by Liam Neeson.
- Parents say
- Kids say
What's the story?
Did you hear that sleigh bell? One young boy, whose friends are beginning to doubt Santa's existence, stays awake listening for that telltale jingle to validate his faith. What he hears instead is the toot of a train horn, signaling the beginning of one of the most beautiful Christmas books of all time.
Is it any good?
Children will listen intently to every word and study every picture as this beautiful and mysterious story unfolds. This tale's appeal traverses all age groups because it avoids the cuteness of many Santa stories and instead deals with deep magic. By the end of the story, the boy realizes that many people outgrow their belief in Santa, as one by one his friends and family stop hearing the bell. His own belief, however, rings true to the end.
The illustrations by Chris Van Allsburg, a sculptor by training, invite readers to crawl into each scene. The night is seen in shades of darkness. Van Allsburg uses surprising perspectives on many pages, such as the view from below the train bridge as the Express glides toward the North Pole.
Talk to your kids about ...
- Author: Chris Van Allsburg
- Illustrator: Chris Van Allsburg
- Genre: Holiday
- Topics: Magic and Fantasy, Great Boy Role Models, Holidays, Trains
- Book type: Fiction
- Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Children's Books
- Publication date: October 28, 1985
- Number of pages: 29
- Award: Caldecott Medal and Honors
- Last updated: June 19, 2019
Themes & Topics
Browse titles with similar subject matter.
Top advice and articles
Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.