A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this book.
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.
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.
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.
Did we miss something on diversity?
Research shows a connection between kids' healthy self-esteem and positive portrayals in media. That's why we've added a new "Diverse Representations" section to our reviews that will be rolling out on an ongoing basis. You can help us help kids by suggesting a diversity update.
Suggest an Update
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.See how we rate