Friday, January 11, 2013

ReadItDaddy's Book of the Week W/E Friday 11th January 2013 - "The Polar Express" by Chris Van Allsburg (Andersen Press)

Though Christmas has long since passed, and the last vestiges of the christmas turkey have long been shotgunned into space, we're sort of missing the ability to lazily pick chocolates off the christmas tree and dream that somewhere between the frequent rainstorms we'd get a bit of snow so Santa's sled could run a little easier on Christmas Eve (Note to parents - any awkward questions from your little ones about how Santa's sleigh works without snow? It flies of course!)

Chris Van Allsburg's utterly brilliant "The Polar Express" is our book of the week, and was one of our Christmas Stocking books. I remember seeing this when my (now big and lanky) brother was just a toddler but for some reason we never picked it up for him.

Now Charlotte's old enough to appreciate the difference between books and movies I thought I'd give this a go. You see, she absolutely loves the movie to pieces (and quite rightly so) but the two are light-years apart, save that same cosy atmosphere that comes across in both.

Personally though, I prefer the book. Why? Because Chris Van Allsburg's illustrations and the lilting text of his story beats any CGI render farm, or any crazed scenery-chewing vocalisations from Mr Hanks. With the aid of some amazingly beautiful painted panels and such descriptive scene setting, you feel like you're lazing in your most comfortable armchair listening to someone telling you the story of how they still believe in Christmas, and why.

A few reads through and Charlotte managed to start distancing this from the movie (and stopped asking where the little girl and the kid from the wrong side of the tracks were) and started to appreciate it in a similar way to me. It's so atmospheric, so beautifully produced and as satisfying as the rich chocolatey goodness you imagine those children enjoying as they guzzle their hot chocolate in the restaurant car and speed towards the north pole on the Polar Express itself.

There's probably a good fistful of blog posts in what happens when a well-loved children's book gets turned into a movie or TV adaptation and that's definitely something I'll have to do at some point. But for the time being, having this cosy and utterly brilliant reminder of the magic of Christmas as a book of the week in wet January has made me really crave mince pies and mulled wine again.

Charlotte's best bit: The panel with the wolves. For some reason she's fascinated by this and wants to know what the wolves are up to and why they are chasing the train!

Daddy's favourite bit: I love the cynical kid, he's me - but most of all I love the way Van Allsburg paints a more vivid, colourful and atmospheric picture in my head through his book than Hollywood could ever manage.


  1. (originally posted by Storyseekers UK but Blogger scoffed it, daft thing!)

    I really love both the book and the film, but like you, the book always wins out for me. Interestingly, both my boys can take or leave the film at the moment (it's probably a bit long for them to sit and concentrate on, though we'll try again next Christmas!) but they really enjoy the book.
    I am a HUGE fan of Chris Van Allsburg and used to use 'The Mysteries of Harris Burdick' a lot when teaching - got some fab discussion, drama and writing after sharing the pictures with my classes. I am becoming increasingly keen on wordless stories (especially having just fallen in love with Shaun Tan's 'The Arrival') and C is a huge fan as well. Perhaps they're another way in for parents who don't find it easy to read to their children for any reason - no pressure to do voices or get anything 'wrong', but you're still sharing a book so the experience in itself might build confidence...?

    1. What I love about the people I converse with through children's books is that they often pre-empt stuff I've been thinking about by mentioning it themselves. Wordless books - this is a subject that will be touched on as part of the #readitmummiesanddaddies2013 campaign as wordless books can seriously help when people don't actually want to read something to or with their children but still want to share a story with them. We've recently reviewed quite a few wordless books, and Shaun Tan's stuff is so stunning to look at that no words are required for the most part.

      Really love Chris Van Allsburg's stuff and it's been a pleasant discovery to find other stuff he's written (like Jumanji for instance). We do like the movie, it almost feels like a completely separate entity at times though.

      Apologies that Blogger scoffed your comment originally, note to self, never try to publish a comment through a phone when you've got fat fingers!


Your comments mean A LOT to us. Please drop a comment in this lovely box!

We will actively delete promotional or spammy comments.