While I am too old to have experienced Chirs Van Allsburg's Caldecott Medal winning book "Polar Express" as a child, I now have the pleasure of sharing the stunningly gorgeous book with my train obsessed 4-year-old son.
The book's simple narrative, haunting illustrations, and melancholy undertones capture the dichotomy of the Christmas spirit - while it is a time filled with joy, the holiday season is shaded by sadness and reflection about innocence lost.
I first came to the story courtesy of Robert Zemeckis' bloated motion capture film. Much like the big-screen adaptation of the Dr. Seuss' "How the Grinch Stole Christmas" (which I wrote about here), Zemeckis' film feels overlong thanks to the addition of so many unnecessary episodes, and show-offy flourishes. Whereas the book poetically describes drinking hot cocoa "as thick and rich as melted chocolate bars" and eating "candy with nougat centers as white as snow," the movie transforms this sequence into a kinetic musical spectacle as choreographed by Stomp and staged by Cirque du Soliel.
Of course to a child, the story is all about trains, and a magical trip to the North Pole - and kids love the movie.
Some within the region are offering what they believe is the ultimate "Polar Express" experience:
The Polar Express Experience:
Experience the movie like never before! Watch the Polar Express in an authentic train car. This magical holiday tale tells of a young boy who still wants to believe in Santa even though his friends have "grown out of it". His faith is rewarded when a steam train pulls up to his house and escorts him to the North Pole to meet Santa. While watching the movie participants will experience some of what is happening on the screen! Tickets are $20.00 per person (children under 2 Free with a paying adult) and includes cookies, hot chocolate and a special gift.
Not to be outdone, Stone Mountain's "Polar Express Experience" is in 4-D!
The Polar Express 4-D Experience:
Go on an extraordinary adventure this holiday season with THE POLAR EXPRESS 4-D EXPERIENCE!
When a doubting young boy takes an extraordinary train ride to the North Pole, he embarks on a journey of self-discovery that shows him that the wonder of life never fades for those who believe.
THE POLAR EXPRESS 4-D EXPERIENCE is a 20 minute show based on the inspiring and beloved Caldecott Medal children's book by Chris Van Allsburg.
Strobe lights are used during show.
For me, the best way to experience "The Polar Express", is to read it with my son on my lap sipping hot cocoa (and making howling noises on the page with the wolves).
This recent story on Marketplace affirms my sense that nothing beats the real thing:
"Parents are nervous that if they aren't buying these high-quality educational expensive toys, their children are going to be somehow disadvantaged. And the reality is, that which is simplest is frequently best. That the best educational toys are things like blocks. Like books," says Christakis.
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