A young boy is awakened from his Christmas Eve rest by a train that magically appears just outside his home. Ignoring the demands of stranger-danger, the boy climbs aboard, finding the car filled with other youngsters. They are treated to goodies while en route to the north pole where Santa is to offer the first gift of Christmas to one of the passengers in a town-square ceremony attended by all the elves as well as the transported youngsters. Our hero is selected, and when asked what he would like, opts for a single bell from Santa's sleigh.
This is one of the all time great magical stories, with stunning illustrations. I read this to my kids every year on Christmas Eve since the late 1980s. While they have long outgrown that tradition, on the odd occasions when I pick it up again, it never fails to bring tears to my eyes. The illustrations are incredible and the message of youthful hope symbolized by the bell resonates.
When they char my final remains, this is one of the books I want to go into the ashes with me.