Tuesday, December 4, 2007

For those who truly believe

The teacher in me decided to start something new. I love, love, love children's literature! I probably have over 1000 children's books in my classroom. That's not counting the books I given away over the years to students who had a favorite of mine or the others that have been "loved" so much they fall apart. I've decided that one day each week (not any specific day...I'm not a good enough blogger for that) I will designate a post of a favorite children's book. Since this is my favorite time of year, it's only fitting I share my favorite Christmas book.

The Polar Express by Chris Van Allsburg

I doubt there are many if any people that read this blog, who have not read this wonderful book. I read it each and every year to my class. I remember the year the movie came out, I was excited and sad at the same time. I couldn't imagine that the movie could even compare to the book, although it does! I also knew that after children saw the movie the book wouldn't be as special to them. For some this is true, but for those true book lovers, they don't mind that they've seen the movie.

What I love most about this book is the imagery that Chris Van Allsburg creates in with his choice of words. Even without the beautiful pictures, the words enable students to create pictures and movies in their minds. This book allows those children who really want to believe in Santa a bit longer, to do just that.

From the moment the story begins until the very last page, the reader is swept up into the story. I love that this book is written from the perspective of the little boy who is now all grown up.

It begins like this: "On Christmas Eve, many years ago, I lay quietly in my bed. I did not rustle the sheets. I breathed slowly and silently. I was listening for a sound -- a sound a friend had told me I'd never hear -- the ringing of Santa's sleigh.

'There is no Santa,' my friend had insisted, but I knew he was wrong."

Instead of the ringing bells, he hears the hissing of steam. The young boy leaves his warm bed and boards "The Polar Express" for a non-stop trip to the North Pole. We follow him on his journey to the frozen north. Once he enters the North Pole, he is the lucky child, chosen by Santa Claus to choose the first gift of Christmas. What does he choose? A simple, silver bell from the reindeer's harness on Santa's sleigh. Unfortunately, we discover that he has lost the bell as the train is pulling out of the station. Of course this is a Christmas book so it has to have a happy ending. Santa finds it on the seat of his sleigh and leaves it under the boy's tree and he discovers it on Christmas morning.

The boy and his little sister admire the beauty of the sound it makes when he rings it, but their parents say, "Oh, that's too bad....It's broken."

The book ends with the following (which just happens to be my very favorite part of the entire book):

"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.”

If you don't have it, go out and buy this treasure of a book!


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