November 2004

Spotlight On…   The Polar Express

cover of The Polar Express

The Polar Express, one of the biggest movies to hit the screens this holiday season, is based on a book that has enchanted millions of readers, young and old, since it was published in 1985. Now considered a Christmas classic, The Polar Express by Chris Van Allsburg, is the story of a young boy’s magical Christmas Eve train ride to the North Pole. Jump aboard to learn more about the movie and the book!

The Movie

The official Polar Express website has a photo gallery, trailer, games, contests, and fun stuff to download.

Use the Internet Movie Database to find cast and crew info, a plot summary, a soundtrack listing, box office numbers, trailers, and reviews from professional critics.

Find out when and where the movie is showing in your neighborhood at

One noteworthy aspect of The Polar Express is “performance capture,” the innovative technology used by director Robert Zemeckis to recreate Van Allsburg’s rich, evocative illustrations on the big screen. Zemeckis and Tom Hanks, who plays four roles in the movie, are extremely enthusiastic about using this approach to filmmaking—you can hear what they have to say about it an interview on National Public Radio.

How does Van Allsburg feel about the movie adaptation of his holiday classic? Interviews with him are available on the Time for Kids and Kidsreads websites.

Chris Van Allsburg

Although The Polar Express is his best-known book, don’t overlook the rest of Chris Van Allsburg’s work. His mysterious and magical “modern fairy tales” have engaged the imagination of adults and children for over twenty-five years!

Covers of Three Books

* Written by Mark Helprin

Interested in learning more about Van Allsburg? The Biography Resource Center, in our collection of Research Databases, offers profiles of his life and work, and the Literature Resource Center is a good resource for biographical information and critical analysis.

Be sure and take a few minutes to explore his website. In addition to his biography, you’ll find a list of frequently-asked-questions, detailed information (for teachers and kids) about all of his books, interactive games, postcards, coloring pages, and a scavenger hunt.

More Books & Movies

Of course, lots of other beloved children’s classics have been turned into movies. Here are a few of our favorites:

Charlotte’s WebCharlotte’s Web DVD
Babe: The Gallant PigBabe DVD
JumanjiJumanji DVD
The BorrowersThe Borrowers DVD
Charlie and the Chocolate FactoryWilly Wonka & the Chocolate Factory VHS
HolesHoles DVD
Freaky FridayFreaky Friday DVD
The Princess DiariesThe Princess Diaries DVD
The Iron Giant: A Story in Five NightsThe Iron Giant DVD
MatildaMatilda DVD
Stuart LittleStuart Little DVD
Shrek!Shrek DVD
Tuck EverlastingTuck Everlasting DVD
Harry Potter and the Chamber of SecretsHarry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets DVD

“All Aboard,” the conductor cried out …

Kids who are interested in learning more about trains may want to check out these recent additions to our collection:

Adult train buffs might be interested in the following:

The Central Pacific Railroad Photography Museum uses thousands of digital images to trace the story of the construction of the first transcontinental railroad in the 19th century.

Check out the Union Pacific website for fun facts about locomotives, locomotive horn signals, rail cars, and railroad lingo.

And of course, we can’t forget about the holiday train display in the lobby of the Cinergy building. Since 1949, over 9 million people have made the trip downtown to see this display, which is described as “one of the largest portable models in the world!”