Reviews for Polar Express

BookPage Reviews 2009 December
Holiday cheer from Chris Van Allsburg

What marks the start of the holiday season for you?Since we celebrate both Hanukah and Christmas in our home, the beginning of the holiday season can sometimes start with the lighting of a candle, or a trip to the local Christmas tree lot. My daughters, when still young, would always pick out the largest tree we could tie to the car roof.

Does your family have one very special holiday tradition?We like to put antlers on our mini Schnauzer.

What are you most looking forward to during the holiday season?My eldest daughter is going far away to college this fall as a freshman. I look forward to her return during the holidays.

What’s your favorite holiday book or song?Nat King Cole’s rendition of “The Christmas Song.”

Why do books make the best gifts?Because it is possible to find a book to suit just about everyone on your gift list. Because the inscription one can place within a book will connect the recipient to the gift giver each time the gift is opened. Because toys break but good stories are remembered forever, and because books are really easy to wrap.

What was the best book you read this year?I read contemporary fiction, and I’m especially fond of short stories, as they make for ideal bedtime reading—one or two and it's lights out. However, I encounter around the house the paperback modern classics my children are assigned to read in school. It is very tempting to revisit these titles, which, in the last year, included works by Nabokov, Fitzgerald and Salinger. I guess I’d have to say The Catcher in the Rye was my most satisfying recent this read.

What’s your number one resolution for 2010?To spend less time reading newspapers and consequently feeling the world is coming to an end, and more time reading books that provide momentary sanctuary in a reality that is not my own.

Copyright 2009 BookPage Reviews.

Publishers Weekly Reviews 2004 September #4
Several treasured titles make a comeback as reissues. In preparation for the November release of the book-based film starring Tom Hanks, Houghton has reshot the artwork for the 1986 Caldecott Medal- winning The Polar Express by Chris Van Allsburg, sprucing up this perennial holiday favorite. Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.

School Library Journal Reviews 1985 October
Gr 1-3 Given a talented and aggressive imagination, even the challenge of as cliche-worn a subject as Santa Claus can be met effectively. Van Allsburg's Polar Express is an old-fashioned steam train that takes children to the North Pole on Christmas Eve to meet the red-suited gentleman and to see him off on his annual sleigh ride. This is a personal retelling of the adult storyteller's adventures as a youngster on that train. The telling is straight, thoughtfully clean-cut and all the more mysterious for its naive directness; the message is only a bit less direct: belief keeps us young at heart. The full-page images are theatrically lit. Colors are muted, edges of forms are fuzzy, scenes are set sparsely, leaving the details to the imagination. The light comes only from windows of buildings and the train or from a moon that's never depicted. Shadows create darkling spaces and model the naturalistic figures of children, wolves, trees, old-fashioned furniture and buildings. Santa Claus and his reindeer seem like so many of the icons bought by parents to decorate yards and rooftops: static, posed with stereotypic gestures. These are scenes from a memory of long ago, a dreamy reconstruction of a symbolic experience, a pleasant remembrance rebuilt to fufill a current wish: if only you believe, you too will hear the ringing of the silver bell that Santa gave him and taste rich hot chocolate in your ride through the wolf-infested forests of reality. Van Allsburg's express train is one in which many of us wish to believe. Kenneth Marantz, Art Education Department, Ohio State University, Columbus Copyright 1985 Cahners Business Information.