Family Reading- The Polar Express

I saved the best for last for our week of young reader suggestions. I can’t think of anything better than Chris van Allsburg’s The Polar Express to share the joy and magic of the holiday season.


Enchanting families since its publication, The Polar Express has become a tradition for many families during the holiday season. It tells the magical story of a young boy, who’s not quite sure about Santa Claus, and his fantastic journey to the North Pole aboard the Polar Express. There he meets everyone he always heard stories about: Santa, elves, and the reindeer. He is chosen, among all of the other children also on this adventure, to get the very first gift of Christmas. He chooses a bell, but not just any bell. The boy asks Santa for a silver bell from his sleigh. Just like the night, this bell is magic. In the course of his adventures, the boy loses the bell but awakes on Christmas morning to find it waiting for him under the tree. He shakes the bell and hears the joyful sound of Christmas and his own belief in magic.

This is a book for the entire family. A 1986 Caldecott Medal Winner, it perfectly creates the magic and wonder of Christmas. If your child is on the fence about Santa, just like the hero, this book can help convince him or her of the possibility of magic and power of belief. Also good for young train enthusiasts, as its title suggests.

The holiday, whether you believe in the magic of Santa Claus or just the magic of your own family, you too might hear a little tinkling bell on Christmas Eve.


Family activities:

– Trains were once the ultimate toy to receive wrapped on Christmas morning. Consider giving a set to your child this holiday or, better yet, dig your old set out of the attic and set it up together!

– This book was made into a full-length animated film in 2004. Unlike so many movies adapted from books, this one is every bit as magical as the beloved book that inspired it. Watch it together as a family. Extra credit to anyone that serves hot chocolate while dancing, just like the train’s attendants.

– Letters to Santa are always a family favorite. Try to get your child to ask for just one very special gift.

– Find a silver bell to ring while reading the story. At the end, give it to your child to keep or hang it on the tree together. You could also wrap it for them to receive on Christmas morning.

There are also a lot of wonderful activities, games, and other ideas at Chris van Allsburg’s website. Share your family traditions and find out how other families celebrate Christmas with The Polar Express. All aboard!

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