Daily Progress, Jacksonville, TX

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November 10, 2013

Polar Express: The 'Magic Of Christmas'

• The delightful children's book comes to life on a Texas State Railroad jaunt!

PALESTINE —

The North Pole. Santa Claus. Elves. Pajama people. The strong narrative voice of Ra's al Ghul himself — veteran actor Liam Neeson. It's like the inside of your sleeping child's dreaming brain come to very vivid life.

"The Polar Express" is a Texas State Railroad train ride based on Chris Van Allsburg’s eponymous award-winning 1985 children's book.

The ride offers both children and parents the opportunity to slide into their pajamas — the children in PJs nickname themselves "pajama people" — while they take a magical tour to the North Pole.

The final quote in Van Allsburg's book pretty much says it all:

"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."

The book, set somewhat in Grand Rapids, Michigan, was written to be a relaxing yet epic Christmas story for young ones. Van Allsburg — a former professor at the Rhode Island School of Design — went out of his way to make the book as comfortable a read as possible, going so far as to incorporate his home town into the tale.

Ultimately, he received the Caldecott Medal for children's literature in 1986 for the book and saw it named "one of the Top 100 Picture Books of all time" in a 2012 poll by School Library Journal.

“The Polar Express” became a Oscar-nominated, 2004 “motion-capture” film starring the one and only Tom Hanks. But the local ride does the classic story an incredible amount of justice.

Imagine the commanding voice of actor Liam Neeson (Batman Begins, Darkman, Schindler's List, Star Wars: Episode I - The Phantom Menace) orating over the intercom as hot chocolate and cookies are served all around.

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