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Polarizing the Polar Express

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Polarizing the Polar Express

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  • April 2013
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Christopher Whitten
The Polar Express
Caldecott Award paper
Lorinda Cohoon
Polarizing The Polar Express
The Polar Express written and illustrated by Chris Van Allsburg in 1985, was chosen for a Caldecott Medal in 1986. It was praised for its detailed illustrations and calm, relaxing storyline. Widely considered to be a classic Christmas story for young children, it has earned recognition several times in the 28 years since its conception and publication. No stranger to such honors, Van Allsburg has continued to work with children and inspire illustrations for years following this timeless masterpiece. The 1985 Christmas favorite, The Polar Express” won Van Allsburg a Caldecott Medal in 1986. That wasn’t his first however. He received the same honor for Jumanji, published five years earlier. He also received a Caldecott Honor Book for The Garden of Abdul Gasazi in 1980. He was awarded the Regina Medal for lifetime achievement in children’s literature. Jumanji won the national book award in 1982 and was made into a popular feature film in 1996. The Polar Express was likewise turned into a motion capture computer-animated fantasy film in 2004 (Awards). It was praised for its detailed illustrations and calm, relaxing storyline. Based on a 2007 online poll, the National Education Association named The Polar Express one of its "Teachers' Top 100 Books for Children." It was one of the "Top 100 Picture Books" of all time in a 2012 poll by School Library Journal. Van Allsburg’s Christmas creation makes its way each December into The New York Times’ best sellers list. According to a 2011 USA Today article, The Polar Express has spent 130 weeks in the top 150 since the list began in 1993. It was number one for three weeks in 2004 after the movie, starring Tom Hanks, was released (Minzesheimer). Van Allsburg has also been recognized by several states’ children’s book awards for his vast list of publications. A New York Times book review called the book “magic...