Children's Lit Book Reviews

Thursday, February 4, 2010


By: Chris Van Allsburg
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Books for Children
Copyright: 1981
Pages: 32
Reading Level: 4-8
Genre: Picture Book/Adventure
Award: Caldecott

"Mr. Van Allsburg's illustrations have a beautiful simplicity of design, balance, texture, and a subtle intelligence beyond the call of illustration."
-The New York Times

Summary: Judy and Peter are left at home while their parents go to opera with some friends. Minutes after their parents are gone they both decide that they are bored. Judy instantly comes up with the idea that they should go outside and play in a nearby park. While running around in the park they stumble upon a game named, "Jumanji: A Jungle Adventure Game." Attached to the game in sloppy childlike handwriting was a note reading," Free game fun for some but not for all. P.S. Read instructions carefully." Judy immediately turns to Peter and asks if he would want to play that game. Peter assumes the worst and replies, "Not really...I'm sure somebody left it here because it's so boring." Not paying attention to Peter's reply Judy grabs Peter's hand and runs back to the house to begin what will become an forgettable adventure of a lifetime.
Once home they open the box, set up the game and read the instructions. noticing what is said in bold letters. The last part of the instructions warns them, saying, "D. Very important: Once a game of Jumanji is started it will not be over until one player reaches the Golden City." Peter, with almost no enthusiasm, still didn't think that the warning at the end of the instructions were exciting. So he grabs the dice, rolls a seven, movs up seven spaces and lands on a space that read, "Lion attacks, move back two spaces." Peter still finds the game to be boring and begins to mock it. Immediately, Judy notices a lion lying on the piano directly behind Peter. Peter realizes this, jumps up and runs away with the lion only a whisker's length behind him. After locking the lion in a room, Peter returns to Judy and tells her that he doesn't want to play the game anymore. Unfortunately, they must continue playing as that was one of the stipulations of the game. They realize they must continue playing it and realize that anything that will happen to them during the game will not go away until one of them wins. Diligently, Judy keeps encouraging Peter to play and eventually monkeys, a monsoon, a lost trail guide, rampant rhinos, a python, and even an erupting volcano grace the their home with their presence. Finally, it is Judy's time to roll the dice, and she realizes that she will end the game as she grabs her game piece and slams in on the end yelling, "Jumanji."
The house is instantly filled with a thick steam that becomings even thicker as seconds pass. Then, as if someone opened every door and window in the home, a cool breeze enters and every thing from the lion to the guide have left the home. Immediately, they grab the game put it back into the box, run across the street to the park, and throw the game back under the tree where they originally found it. Shortly after that, both of their parents return from the opera to a clean home. It is as if nothing even happened, and when Judy and Peter are asked about their afternoon their parents laughed. After being told to go upstairs to get changed, they notice that two boys named Danny and Walter Budwig are running away with the game under their arms.
Who would benefit from reading this book?: This Caldecott award winner is a great book for children of all ages. Children will instinctively understand the deep sense of magic and imagination this book contains. Boredom is usually common among young children, and a stampede of jungle animals through the house would provide the perfect cure. The tension of how the house will be cleaned up before Mom and Dad come home adds to the suspense for readers.
What problems/conflicts would this book potentially cause?: I don't think that this book provides many problems or conflicts. Potentially, with animals such as snakes, rhinos, lions, and an erupting volcano within a home, the story could provide some problems with younger children being scared. But this is a great book for children of all ages.
My reaction: I loved this book. It has always been one of my favorites, growing up I remember when I first read it as a child and the excitement I always felt in doing so. It teaches a great lessons on life. One lesson I picked up on was the importance of following directions and completing things thoroughly. The illustrations are gorgeous and almost surreal. They match the text and add to the suspense of a youthful mind.
posted by Jon Dale at 4:04 PM


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