All aboard the Polar Express at Newton County Library

It may not be near cold enough to snow here in east metro Atlanta, but children can still experience the magic of a snowy winter in their imaginations by visiting the Newton County Library this month.

December is a "Polar Express" month at the library with a replica of the locomotive from the 2004 animated film set up in the children's room, a showing of the movie scheduled, and a children's performer who has his own train-related holiday tale to tell.

Kiwanis Club of Covington member Richard Rawlins built a train garden using Lionel "Polar Express" O gauge trains complete with 13-inch long steam engine and coal tender as well as foot-long passenger cars, which is now on display in the children's room at the Newton County Library. The train travels through terrain that includes a snow-covered mountain, lakes, pine trees, a windmill and a station house. The train, run by electric, also whistles and blows "smoke."

The Kiwanis Club is selling raffle tickets for $5 a piece to anyone interested in owning the train garden, which is attached to a table with folding legs and can be easily stored. Proceeds benefit the Kiwanis Club Joe Croom Scholarship Fund which provides two $1,000 scholarships at each of Newton County's three high schools.

A model train enthusiast who keeps a room in his Social Circle home dedicated to his hobby, Rawlins serves on the Kiwanis Club's fundraising committee. He said the "Polar Express" set-up is worth several hundred dollars, and, because it's a Lionel set, it's easy to obtain more cars and add to the display.

"I actually saw the idea in the national Kiwanian magazine where a club had done something similar with a Lionel train set in Indianapolis," said Rawlins.

The "Polar Express" train garden will be at the library through Dec. 8 and the drawing for the raffle takes place on Dec. 20 at a Kiwanis Club meeting.

On Saturday, Dec. 8 at 2 p.m. families may also take advantage of the free showing of the movie "The Polar Express" in the library's meeting room. An animated film released in 2004 and featuring the voice of Tom Hanks, "The Polar Express" is the story of a young boy who climbs aboard a magic train bound for the North Pole and receives a special gift from Santa. The movie is based on the Caldecott Medal Winner book "The Polar Express," written by Chris Van Allsburg and published in 1985.

To round out the "Polar Express" month, the library is offering a free performance of "Arctic Express" by children's entertainer and educator Tommy Johns on Tuesday, Dec. 18 at 4 p.m. Johns uses storytelling, puppets, magic, music and audience participation to relay the tale of a young boy who takes a takes an imaginative train ride across the world to learn about winter holidays in other cultures.

Diwali, Kwanzaa, Solstice, Ramadan, Chinese New Year, Hanukkah and Christmas are just a few of the celebrations highlighted in the show. Johns said he discusses both the differences and the similarities between all of these observances.

"Almost all of the winter festivals are about the magic of sharing and the spirit of giving," said Johns.

The show also focuses on the importance of having goals in life and sticking to them, said Johns.

"The finale of the show is really touching. We talk about not giving up on your dreams," he said. "The kids love it."

To learn more about these programs, call the Newton County Library at 770-787-3231.

Contact Karen J. Rohr at karen.rohr@rockdalecitizen.com.

SideBar: If You Go

Newton County Library "Polar Express" activities

The Exhibit

What: "The Polar Express" train garden

When: Through Dec. 8

Where: Newton County Library children's room, 7116 Floyd St. in Covington

Cost: Free

The Movie

What: "The Polar Express" animated film starring the voice of Tom Hanks

When: Saturday, Dec. 8 at 2 p.m.

Where: Newton County Library meeting room, 7116 Floyd St. in Covington

Cost: Free

The Storyteller

What: Tommy Johns - storyteller, puppeteer and magician - presents "Arctic Express"

When: Tuesday, Dec. 18 at 4 p.m.

Where: Newton County Library children's room, 7116 Floyd St. in Covington

Cost: Free