The Polar Express Book Poster Image

The Polar Express

One of the most beautiful Christmas books.
Parents recommend

What parents need to know

Positive messages

A sweet messages about believing, even as you grow older and your friends stop believing.

Positive role models

The boy is open-minded and open-hearted. The conductor is a benevolent guide. Santa is jolly and kind.

Violence & scariness
Not applicable
Not applicable

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.

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.

Families can talk about...

  • Families can talk about faith. Why can the boy and his sister hear the bell but the adults can't? Have you ever believed something other people told you wasn't true? Why did you continue to believe? How did you feel?

Book details

Author:Chris Van Allsburg
Illustrator:Chris Van Allsburg
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

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What parents and kids say

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Parent of a 2, 4, and 4 year old Written byFowlerFan May 14, 2011
Great book. Our kids like to read it year round.
Kid, 12 years old December 19, 2009

perfect childrens book

the book is fun and perfect for younger kids!
Parent of a 4 and 10 year old Written bylexijacksmom August 17, 2009