They're beautifully illustrated, frequently cryptic, and sometimes a wee bit scary. They're supposed to be for kids, but adults love them, too. They're the books of Chris Van Allsburg. And if you and yours don't own any, don't worry; you couldn't have picked a better holiday season to discover them.
This year marks the 10th birthday of The Polar Express, Van Allsburg's most popular work, with some 3 million copies in print. A special anniversary CD-ROM and book, which includes a note from the author, will celebrate the occasion. Don't miss it. Polar is the story of a boy who takes a train to Santa's land and finds upon returning that nonbelievers can't hear the magic sleigh bell Santa gave him. The book's illustrations seem lit from within, like Vermeer paintings.
If you're looking for something edgier, try Jumanji. With masterful, vertiginous black-and-white drawings, it tells of a malevolent board game that unleashes wild jungle animals into the home of two children. A movie version starring Robin Williams will hit theaters Dec. 15. The $50 million flick will add much to the original tale including Williams' character: a man trapped in the game since boyhood who uses his 25 years of experience to help kids get the critters back in the box.