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The Polar Express

4.27 of 5 stars 4.27  ·  rating details  ·  117,908 ratings  ·  1,858 reviews
The Polar Express isa treasured holiday tradition.This lavish giftset includes aCD audio recording read by Liam Neeson, akeepsake "All Aboard" ornament, and a note from author Chris Van Allsburg.

Awarded the prestigious Caldecott Medal in 1986,The Polar Express has soldmore than 7 million copies, become a classic holiday movie, andbeen translatedinto stage productions that
Hardcover, 32 pages
Published October 28th 1985 by HMH Books for Young Readers
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Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix by J.K. RowlingTwilight by Stephenie MeyerHarry Potter and the Goblet of Fire by J.K. RowlingHarry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban by J.K. RowlingThe Da Vinci Code by Dan Brown
The BOOK was BETTER than the MOVIE
51st out of 1,287 books — 17,274 voters
Forrest Gump by Winston GroomThe Devil Wears Prada by Lauren WeisbergerJurassic Park by Michael CrichtonJumanji by Chris Van AllsburgMary Poppins by P.L. Travers
I Only Watched the Movie!
57th out of 890 books — 4,992 voters

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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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Will Byrnes
A young boy is awakened from his Christmas Eve rest by a train that magically appears just outside his home. Ignoring the demands of stranger-danger, the boy climbs aboard, finding the car filled with other youngsters. They are treated to goodies while en route to the north pole where Santa is to offer the first gift of Christmas to one of the passengers in a town-square ceremony attended by all the elves as well as the transported youngsters. Our hero is selected, and when asked what he would l ...more
I so wanted to love this book. I had heard many friends enthuse about The Polar Express, knew it had won awards, and have a soft spot myself for illustrated fantasy books for children. But this particular one I found to be a little disappointing.

Yes, it has magical elements. In a way it is reminiscent of many Christmas stories, with the message that you just need to believe in Father Christmas and everything will turn out to be perfect. It had elements from stories I love, such as "The Snowman",
Dec 02, 2011 Arlene rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommended to Arlene by: Those who believe in the magic of Christmas...
So here’s a little something about me… there are two movies I to watch around the holidays. Harry Potter and the Sorcerer Stone and The Polar Express. Yes, I’m a kid at heart and there’s just something about those two movies that, for me, make it feel like Christmas.

I think it was around the holidays several years ago that I went out shopping during Black Friday (yes call me crazy) and bought my first HP movie for the low price of like $3! And, I’ve watched the movie every year s
“The Polar Express” is a fantastic book that proudly won the Caldecott Medal and is from the creative mind of Chris Van Allsburg. This story is about how a young boy experiences the magic of the North Pole when he goes a magical ride on the Polar Express. “The Polar Express” is a brilliant Christmas story that children of all ages will enjoy for many years.

Chris Van Allsburg has done a terrific job at both writing and illustrating this book with a passion. Chris Van Allsburg portrays the boy’s
Nov 30, 2008 Jennifer rated it 1 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: adults trying to recapture their mythic childhoods
My general opinion of Chris Van Allsburg is that his books are made to appeal to adults, not children. None of his books has ever been a favorite of my children. This book is a perfect example. The overall story has potential--a Christmas Eve train that takes Santa-believing children to the North Pole to witness the ritual of Santa giving the first gift of Christmas. But page after page of illustration focuses on the landscape the train travels. When the Polar Express arrives at the North Pole, ...more
Jeff Raymond
I hate The Polar Express.

I don't so much dislike Chris Van Allsburg, although I consider him complicit. I think Bad Day at Riverbend is a top 5 picture book for me, and his art style is great, and he can often tell a fun story (last year's Probuditi a great example).

But holy crap do I hate The Polar Express.

It's like Love You Forever - tacky, sentimental pap designed to get you to shed a tear or tug on your heartstrings or whatever. The bell! The whole thing just...throws me. I don't get it.

The Polar Express captures all the magical warmth of many Christmases spent under the tree, drinking creamy hot chocolates and writing letters to Santa. It's wonderfully written and beautifully illustrated and evokes the sweetest child-like emotions from within me.

"Though I've grown old, the bell still rings for me, as it does for all who truly believe.”

A wonderful classic recommended to all.
I collect Christmas books and would eagerly scour the shelves for the newest stories each season, but for whatever reason I did not buy nor read The Polar Express - it just did not appeal to me. Then in 1987 I took my two daughters to Seattle via Amtrak to attend Maurice Sendak's stage setting of the Christmas classic The Nutcracker. Before going to the ballet, the girls and I spent an afternoon at a Christmas exhibit at the University of Washington and chanced to happen upon an older gentleman ...more
I wanted to hear the bell ring too. For one brief moment, I also wanted to have one of Santa's sleigh bell and let it ring then listen to it across decades.
I am too old to ride the Polar express but I'll never tire of Christmas! This Picture book reminds us of that magic that Christmas morning brings. The wonderful cooking of our mother , those waking moments when we run towards our Christmas stockings just to check what Santa has brought for us.
This book contains magic, the North pole, elves,
Jake Hartnett
What a magical story—perfect for this time of year. It took me 30 minutes to read this little gem: 10 of those consisted of reading, and the remainder was made up of me just simply staring into space with my mouth gaping, imagining I was actually aboard the old steam train, tearing through the snowy wilderness on my way to meet Santa Claus at the North Pole.

Though very short, it still manages to wrap itself around you, allowing you to escape into the wintery world of Christmas. Everything about
Jackson Zoellner
I was never read this book as a child. Our christmas story was always "The night before Christmas." The first time I read it was when the movie came out years ago staring Tom Hanks. I thought it would be prudent to pick up the book and read it before seeing the movie and I find it quite charming. As a young realistic boy it did not take me long to start questioning the reality of santa but like most kids I still was enthralled with the christmas spirit and the influence that these types of stori ...more
Jonathan Peto
I've read this a few times to my children. The illustrations are amazing, very panoramic, lovingly imagined, carefully detailed. The story, however, always strikes me as oddly incomplete. It has a goal, a sentiment, which is fine, but I'm always left scratching my head a little bit. This Polar Express travels all night bringing masses of children to the North Pole so Santa can choose one to give a first Christmas gift to? That alone doesn't make much sense to me. I refuse to believe that that tr ...more
Doree Burt
1986 Caldecott Medal. My favorite page is where the children on the train comfort the boy when he discovered he has lost the bell. That page shows the emotion that the rest of the book strives for. Other than that page, It seemed forced to me, like it was just trying too hard. We have quite a few Christmas books. I don't think I'd ever consider adding this to our holiday collection. I don't think it lives up to its hype. But then again, I think Anderson Cooper and Craig Ferguson are way hotter t ...more
Loved the movie!
Madison Lantvit
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Anything by this author is fantastic. Always for adults as well as for kids.
I had the most fortunate pleasure of having this story read by a wonderful sales associate (and my friend) who works at B&N. The way he conveyed the story made it come to life. I really enjoyed hearing the story of the Polar Express. I never knew there was a book; I only knew of the movie. Haven't seen the movie, glad I heard the book first.
This is a story about a boy who travels to the North Pole via a "magical train". This was a great holiday treat. There was hot chocolate (with whipped c
Dec 01, 2013 JoAnne rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: children everywhere
Awards: The Caldecott 1986
As a young boy strains to hear the bells on Santa’s Sleigh from his bed, instead he hears the sound of a train whistle. Going outside he finds it is the Polar Express. The conductor invites him aboard and they are off. On board were many other children and they are offered goodies and treats while they watch wintery scenes whisk by on their way to the North Pole. When they get to the North Pole the city is empty for all the elves have gathered in the main square w
Brigid Keely
My 3 1/2 year old stumbled across "The Polar Express" movie by chance and fell in love with it. It has brave kids, Santa, Christmas, adventures, and best of all... trains! TRAINS! What could be more perfect?

I hate the movie, and not for the reasons most people do. I find the story both thin and horrific, accurately capturing the nonsensical terror of nightmares. I'd heard the book was pretty different, and a lot more straightforward, and ordered it for Bozic (Orthodox Christmas, in January).

Hannah Delaughter
The Polar Express is all about a little boy who takes a magical journey to the North Pole to see Santa. The little boy was chosen out of everyone to receive the first gift of Christmas which was a bell that was off Santa's sleigh. This signified that if you could hear the bell ring then you truly believed. The illustrations in this book were simple, yet perfect for this kind of book. It gave you just enough to see what the storyline was talking about and at the same time you still got to use yo ...more
Germaine (Marie) Semodio
First of all, the book is a traditional holiday classic. The color scheme used has a lot of yellow, depicting light and sources of happiness in the book. For example, the windows of the train had lights, inside the train were children eating and being merry, the North Pole was full of lights, where Santa and his elves live and work to make toys - happiness galore. Santa always wears red, depicting warmth and attention - he is the big guy giving out gifts. This book used borders for the effect of ...more
Miranda Jones
I like how the author created a mysterious, magic feel to the book. The colors used in these illustrations were very dark and rich. These colors, along with the blended lines, create a fantasy, dream-like feel. This makes the readers question whether the boy is just dreaming the experience, or living it. I liked how Chris Van Allsburg made the backgrounds all very dark, expect in the bright windows of the train. This adds to the mysterious wonder experienced by those who aboard the train. Allsbu ...more
Kayla Strand
This book is a classic with its detailed watercolor artwork. The pictures have little details that make the book more interesting and grab the reader’s attention immediately. The story is about a young boy who is waiting up for Santa on Christmas Eve, but instead a train pulls up and he gets on. When he does more children are on the train and they were given all the food that they could want this close to Christmas. The train leads them to where Santa builds toys and one of the children on the t ...more
Dichotomy Girl
Avery gives it 5 Stars. Her review: She was very upset by the boy leaving the house in the middle of the night by himself,and in his pajama's, she said "Oh No! What if the Mom woke up and saw that the boy wasn't in his bed? She would be so upset!" She added "Kids don't get to see Santa!" But nevertheless wanted to rate it 5 Stars. (I give it 3, so I marked it 4)
It's Christmas, and the main character of the story is waiting up so he can see Santa. Instead he sees a mysterious train, which carries him & many other children to the north pole! He finally sees Santa and his sleigh, and even receives the first gift of the night.
Amber Clapper
I used to read the polar express every Christmas season with my family. I love this book because it is what kept me believing in Santa so much. I think the book has an important message that some people can believe in one thing and others don’t have to. I bet children love this book and there are many conversations that I think are very important. I think every child wants to sit on santas lap and get the first gift of Christmas and this is a great way to connect with the students about what the ...more
Greg Van Vorhis
Waste of money, waste of time, and waste of a movie experience. I can sum up the plot of the story in one word: "Believe." That's all you need to know. It's the same message found in Miracle on 34th Street (pick a version), and a million other Christmas/Santa movies.

The story was dumb. I could print all of the words in the book on my big letters. There was no depth...just a stupid kid who gets on a train with a stranger. There's a good message for kids. The artwork was fantastic, thou
I thought this book was great for little kids to enjoy. It is a good way to take an adventure somewhere new as they are reading this book. The book has great illustrations that kids can at look and observe. I loved this book
The soft colors and gentle shadings of Van Allsburg's illustrations contribute to the mood of mystery and support the dream-like quality of the story. Places and people seem to be suggestions of reality rather than concrete images. The soft covering of snow over each picture reminds the reader of looking into another world, as through a snow globe--a world of which the reader is not quite a part but wishes to go to. The use of light is effective in the story and contrasts with the shadows of the ...more
I first read this the year it came out and instantly knew I had to own it. You see, I knew I was one who could still hear the bell. Even now, all these years later and through life's thick and thin (even a Christmas where nothing changed from Christmas Eve to Christmas morn) the bell still rings. I'm so glad I had a mother who made Christmas magic for me. It was my pleasure to do the same for my children. Believing in Christmas magic had no adverse affect on my faith in the Savior. Even my child ...more
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chris van allsburg 4 31 Nov 29, 2012 03:28PM  
Ashland 566 Autum...: Picture Book 6 1 1 Nov 14, 2012 08:44AM  
MCC Children's Li...: Outstanding Illustrations 2 3 Feb 16, 2012 11:30PM  
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Chris was born in Grand Rapids, Michigan on June 18, 1949, the second child of Doris Christiansen Van Allsburg and Richard Van Allsburg. His sister Karen was born in 1947.

Chris’s paternal grandfather, Peter, owned and operated a creamery, a place where milk was turned into butter, cream, cottage cheese, and ice cream. It was named East End Creamery and after they bottled the milk (and made the ot
More about Chris Van Allsburg...
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“At one time, most of my friends could hear the bell, but as years passed, it fell silent for all of them. Even Sarah found one Christmas that she could no longer hear its sweet sound. Though I've grown old, the bell still rings for me, as it does for all who truly believe.” 96 likes
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