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The Polar Express - Chris Van Allsburg

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Author: Chris Van Allsburg / Format: Paperback / Date of publication: 01 October 2009 / Genre: Picture Storybooks / Publisher: Andersen Press Ltd / Title: The Polar Express / ISBN 13: 9781842709498 / ISBN 10: 1842709498

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    2 Reviews
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      22.12.2011 10:03
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      Christmas story

      The Polar Express.

      This is a favourite Christmas story of mine and although in some ways it is young for Little Miss, she still enjoys the magic of it. The book is quite different to the film, although we also enjoy the film.

      At the very heart of the story is the magic that is Santa Claus and is for all who truly believe. It centres around a little boy who wants to hear the reindeer bells on Christmas Eve, and when he does hear a sound and looks out of his bedroom window, he sees a train. He is invited on board the train and off they go to the North Pole where the boy meets Santa Claus and asks for a bell. I am not going into great detail but when he find the bell under his tree, his parents cant hear the sound and as time goes on fewer and fewer of his friends can hear the sound, because it rings only for those who believe.

      That brief synopsis of the story really does the book no justice at all. The story is lovely to read aloud and is almost poetic with lots of similes and descriptive language.

      The story is set out as bordered double page spreads with the writing on the left hand side of the pages but taking up most of the spread is the picture which corresponds to the writing. The illustrations are bold and each one is a story in itself with plenty to talk about and they are great if you want to use them to ask children to describe what they see. Like the text the pictures will automatically encourage lots of descriptive language.

      ISBN: 978-1-84270-949-8

      Publisher: Anderson Pressltd

      RRP: £6.99

      VERDICT...

      A really magical Christmas story. For reading aloud to children and to teach similes and adjectives, I have used it in school at different times of the year although I do prefer to work it into Christmas reading.
      Very young children may find the story a little difficult to understand but they will certainly enjoy looking at the pictures. It seems to be ideally suited to children from about the age of 7 who usually understand the message. Even for children who are confident readers, I tend tofind that its best to read the story out loud to them so they can concentrate on the flow of the words and the pictures rather than getting bogged down with the reading of the text.

      A truly lovely book which I would recommend.
      Thanks for reading

      Daniela xx

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      22.11.2010 20:39
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      A wonderful book to share with your children and create Christmas memories for years to come.

      While one should not judge a book by it's cover, in this case, I will make an exception. The cover art shows a wonderful old American style steam engine complete with cattle catcher. You can see the steam rising from the smokestack and the light from the front of the train brightening up the night sky. The train somehow conveys warmth and light on a dark night with the snow softly falling.

      The story is told from the perspective of a child, who has reached the stage where most of friends no longer believe in Santa Claus, but he still wants very much to hang onto that magical feeling, where Christmas really is all about magic and wonder, and the realities of the real world are suspended, if only for one day.
      As he lies awake in bed hears the sound of bells - and steam and grinding metal. Looking out his window he sees a train parked outside of his house. The guard invites him on a trip to the North Pole and he climbs aboard for a magical journey. Upon reaching the North Pole, the child is given the chance to ask for any gift, the one he chooses is simple, but perfectly captures the magic of Christmas, a bell from Santa's sleigh. The bell has it's own magic in that it's sweet tinkling sound can only be heard by those who believe. To the child's sorrow, this bell is lost on the way home, but he finds the perfect gift awaiting from Santa.

      The illustrations in this book are absolutely brilliant. They show the icy cold landscape and wandering wolves with great beauty, and the inside of the train is filled with warmth and joy. As one scene shows the children laughing and playing, there is a picture of a small girl with a bit of chocolate and such a look of pure delight. The picture of the child at home on Christmas morning is also exceptional in that it completely captures the magic of Christmas from a child's point of view. While I am of course too old to hear the bells, or believe in Father Christmas, this book completely transports me back in time, to an age when I did believe, and Christmas was truly magical.

      My own children are only 5 and 2, still young enough to believe. This book delights them perhaps in a different way, it builds excitement for the coming season, and reminds them of the magic to come. It also sends them running to pull a bell off our tree and shake it well, making sure they can still hear it :) Of course it also has trains, and my sons love trains with a passion. In fact we take a Christmas train ride each year on steam train with Santa, so they do get to go on their own version of the Polar express each year. This book is just a part of our Christmas tradition, but a very well loved one! I think that having all of our little traditions leading up to Christmas stretches out the holiday. So instead of just one day, it really is a whole season. I love reading Christmas stories as a way of getting ready for Christmas, and I do think this one is absolutely brilliant.

      (also reviewed on ciao as Marge3781 - me)

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