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One Christmas Eve many years ago, a boy lies in bed, listening hard for the bells of Santa’s sleigh, which he has been told by a friend that do not exist. Later that night he hears not bells but a very different sound. He looks out his window and is astounded to see a steam engine parked in front of his house! The conductor invites him to board the Polar Express, a train filled with children on their way to the North Pole.
The train takes the children to the center of the city, where Santa and the elves have gathered for the giving of the first gift of Christmas. The boy is chosen to receive this first gift. Knowing that he can choose anything in the world, he decides on a simple gift: one silver bell from Santa’s sleigh. Santa cuts a bell from a reindeer’s harness and the delighted boy slips it into his bathrobe pocket as the clock strikes midnight and the reindeer pull the sleigh into the sky.
When the children return to the train, the boy realizes the bell has fallen through a hole in his pocket. Heartbroken, he is returned to his home. In the morning, his little sister finds one small box with the boy’s name on it among the presents. Inside is the silver bell! The boy and his sister are enchanted by its beautiful sound, but their parents cannot hear it. The boy continues to believe in the spirit of Christmas and is able to hear the sweet ringing of the bell even as an adult.
The Polar Express is a treasured holiday tradition. Awarded the prestigious Caldecott Medal in 1986, The Polar Express has sold more than 12 million copies, become a classic holiday movie, and been translated into stage productions that take place across the World during the holiday season.
About the Author
Chris Van Allsburg is an accomplished illustrator and writer of children’s books. His picture book illustrations for Jumanji and The Polar Express won him two Caldecott Medals in the United States. These popular books were later adapted as motion pictures.
In 1986 he was also nominated for the biennial, international Hans Christian Andersen Award for his contribution as a children’s illustrator. This award enjoys the highest international recognition for creators of children’s books. Subsequently, in April 2012, he was awarded an honorary degree of Doctor of Humane Letters from the University of Michigan.