Friday, 11 January 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.