All Aboard the Polar Express (Please?)

They say that children’s books are a dying breed. I’ve written about it before and it’s made me sad to think about it ever since. Author Jesse Kornbluth seems to be in the same camp.

In his review of the classic Polar Express, Kornbluth makes a strong case for reading to your kids, calling it the “most interactive medium of all.” (I’ve always been partial to Goodnight Moon, but this might have convinced me.)

Here’s his take:

A simple story. A timeless story, and on purpose—as Van Allsburg has said, “If you opened up my books and there was no copyright page, you wouldn’t be able to tell exactly when it was published.” It’s precisely because the illustrations do not anchor us to our time, our town, that we can deal more directly with the theme of the book.

That theme is belief. Not in Santa, though that will do just fine for kids. Belief in really big things, things we hope are true even in the face of all the information that says they are not.

While he’s not a fan of the movie version, stating that “it’s always sad when Hollywood makes a $150 million film that falters for such obvious reasons,” he reassures us that it doesn’t tarnish the magic of the book itself:

Find a child. And settle in your chair. And start to read. Before you know it, your eyes will mist, you’ll be reaching for the Kleenex, and—and this is the best part of all, especially for the sophisticated and the hard of heart and the bitterly disappointed—you will believe.

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About Lu Fong

Lu Fong was a staff writer and blog editor for the Good Men Project in its formative years. As the requisite woman on staff, her hobbies included cleaning, cooking, knitting, fainting, and childbearing. Follow her on Twitter @lufong.

Comments

  1. Nice post Lu. I completely agree about the importance of reading aloud to kids. It’s a fantastic way for dads especially to bond with their kids.

    I do think however, the demise of the picture book is greatly exaggerated. I love the NY Times usually but I think they really were premature with this analysis. I know a host of book bloggers, including myself, who can barely keep up with the requests for reviews of newly published children’s books.

    Here’s an article of interest about this: http://www.publishersweekly.com/pw/by-topic/childrens/childrens-industry-news/article/45476-don-t-write-the-obit-for-picture-books-yet.html

    • Thanks for the article, Chris—it’s incredibly reassuring to see numbers and voices that counter the NYTimes’ assertion. Fingers crossed that the sentiment lasts!

  2. Tom Matlack says:

    I am a big believer in reading aloud. It’s actually my favorite time of day. As luck would have it my 5 year old and I watched Polar Express last night. I actually quite like the movie, though the book is better.

  3. Lovely post Lu!

    Although reading aloud to kids does not generate the same buzz in the media as Lindsey Lohan’s latest party escapades – it is all the more important to shine the spotlight on this important activity.

    Children are utterly dependent on us to provide them with good literature and to nurture these good habits.

    Thanks for the great post – I am happy to say that I am waiting for the postman to deliver The Polar Express any day now, so I will be able to enjoy this great classic with my twins.

    I must make sure that the Kleenex is at hand as well!

    Read Aloud Dad

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