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Book review – The Polar Express

Book title – The polar express

Author – Chris Van Allsburg

Format – Hardcover


The Polar Express is written by Chris Van Allsburg and is a Caldecott Award winning book.  The Polar Express falls under the fantasy genre. Based on the themes of belief and imagination though, a child could think of it as realism. It could also be considered a myth.  The boy’s adventure on the train in the middle of the night is, to believers, completely believable but to those who have lost that innocence it is purely impossible and fantasized. While at the North Pole, the genre is still fantasy but moves into mythical territory. The character Santa Clause is a mythical figure and this scene that includes him would be considered mythical. On Christmas Eve a boy excitedly waits to hear the sound of Santa’s sleigh bells. Instead, the sound of hissing steam announces the arrival of the Polar Express outside his house. Aboard are excited children in their pyjamas all bound for the North Pole where people are gathering to see Santa give the first gift of Christmas. The boy is offered anything he desires yet simply asks for a bell from the reindeer’s harness which proves to be the most precious of gifts.

VanAllsburg’s launguage is beautiful and he uses text painting and similes to make the text vivid where the pictures are not.  His use of language fits perfectly with the perspective of the boy because they were descriptions of candy and things that a small child would be thinking of, the style of writing although from the boy’s viewpoint is sophisticated and uses proper grammar. The Polar Express is definitely a book that should be read by not only children but also adults. The author does a great job with the theme of the book and really makes you want to believe. This is a great Christmas book and is read by many families around the winter holidays. We see a young boy wanting so badly to believe that Santa is real that as readers we too go through the adventure with him adventure and are also reminded of a stage in life where kids don’t know whether or not they should believe; especially when it comes to Santa. I think it is important that children read this book to understand that it is okay to still believe. Even if they don’t believe it is still a great book to read because as the author puts it some people believe and some don’t it is up to you to decide if you do or don’t.  The last quote in the book that is known to many who have read the book states it perfectly, “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.” This quote says it perfectly. This is an enchanting Christmas story, beautifully written and illustrated with pictures full of warmth and light evoking the excitement and magic of a childhood Christmas.


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