The Caldecott Medal winner in 1982, Chris Van Allsburg’s Jumanji is a delightful romp in the curious area between fantasy and reality that Van Allsburg is so good at creating in his books. I chose to review this book because my last blog post was on another of Chris Van Allsburg’s books, The Wreck of the Zephyr, and I remembered just how much I enjoyed his books and illustrations. Jumanji is definitely one of his more famous books, especially because it got the movie treatment a while back in 1995.
The story immerses the reader in a magical adventure that begins when two bored children, Peter and Judy, find a board game in the park and decide to play it to pass the time while their parents are away. Warned by a note to make sure to read the instructions, it quickly becomes apparent that the board game is anything but normal. The events that happen on the board and in the cards begin to come to life and materialize in the house, much to the dismay of the children. Their concern is validated by monkeys, rhinoceroses, monsoons, and pythons that threaten to destroy their house, with no apparent way to dispel the fantastical intruders. Just when it appears all hope is lost and their parents will come home to a jungle where their home used to be, Peter and Judy are saved by Judy landing on the winning space on the board, returning the house to calm state that they started in. The book ends with them returning the game to the park where they found it, only to later notice a couple other neighborhood kids, ones not known to read directions, bringing the board game back to their house.
The book is a fun and interesting read for all ages, like all of Van Allsburg’s books, and the black-and-white pencil drawings are absolutely magnificent and deserving of the Caldecott Medal. The illustrations are full of exciting animals juxtaposed with a suburban home as well as very expressive characters that are bound to attract all readers. All in all, Jumanji is another mysterious and fantastical journey that readers of all ages can enjoy.