Saturday, March 28, 2020

Review - Jumanji

by Chris Van Allsburg
Date: 1981
Publisher: HMH Books for Young Readers
Reading level: C
Book type: picture book
Pages: 32
Format: e-book
Source: library

The game under the tree looked like a hundred others Peters and Judy had at home. But they were bored and restless and, looking for something interesting to do, thought they'd give Jumanji a try. Little did they know when they unfolded its ordinary-looking playing board that they were about to be plunged into the most exciting and bizare adventure of their lives.

In his second book for children, Chris Van Allsburg again explores the ever-shifting line between fantasy and reality with this story about a game that comes startingly to life. His marvelous drawings beautifully convey a mix of the everyday and the extraordinary, as a quiet house is taken over by an exotic jungle.

(synopsis from Goodreads)

Since this book is almost as old as I am, I thought maybe I might have read it at some point. I know I saw the movie, but I don't remember much. The book is understated, yet kind of magical, and definitely worth taking a look at (especially if you're a fan of Van Allsburg's work).

Judy and Peter are (somewhat conveniently) left at home without a babysitter while their parents go to the opera. They're bored, so they head over to the park, where they find a mysterious box that contains a game called Jumanji. They take it home and play it. But once you start a game of Jumanji, you must finish it. It says so in the instructions. So Judy and Peter face an afternoon of adventures as they attempt to reach the end of the game.

The story is so simple (despite the rather large amount of text) that I'm guessing that the movie was padded quite a bit (I really don't remember!). But what is here is understated and fairly well written. Van Allsburg's monochrome illustrations are lovely, as usual... although they do look a bit dated (given that the book is almost 40 years old, though, that's understandable).

I can see why this has stood the test of time. Younger readers might prefer the movie, as the action in this one is over pretty quickly and the book is rather short. But it's still worth a read.

Quotable moment:

Premise: 4/5
Meter: n/a
Writing: 4/5
Illustrations: 4/5
Originality: 4/5

Enjoyment: 3/5

Overall: 3.67 out of 5

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