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JUMANJI

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JUMANJI

Van Allsburg, Chris. 1981. JUMANJI. Boston: Houghton Mifflin. ISBN: 0395304482.

 

JUMANJI is a picture storybook about a brother and sister, Peter and Judy, who are left alone while their parents attend the opera.  They soon tire of playing indoors and head out to play in the crisp autumn leaves.  While playing outside, they find a board game; it’s called Jumanji.  The instructions include a warning that “once a game of Jumanji is started it will not be over until one player reaches the golden city.”  Peter and Judy quickly discover that whatever the square says that their playing piece lands on becomes reality.  What follows is a harrowing adventure which includes running from a lion, being drenched in a deluge, contracting sleeping sickness from a tsetse fly, and surviving a volcano eruption.  The detailed pencil drawings make the book come alive.  Their realism makes it seem as if the fantasy really could happen.

 

Tension builds as the children realize what kind of game they’ve begun.  “Peter looked down at the game board.  What if Judy rolled a seven?  Then there’d be two lions.  For an instant Peter thought he was going to cry.  Then he sat firmly in his chair and said, “Let’s play.”

 

Van Allsburg’s use of language captivates the audience and paints a visual picture which is full of life.  For example, when the rhinos are stampeding, they “charge through the living room and into the dining room, crushing all the furniture in their path.”  The result is that the reader forms a mental picture, even without the book’s illustrations, of movement and destruction.

 

The use of foreshadowing is used in the first sentence of the book with Mother’s admonition of “please keep the house neat.”  The reader immediately knows that won’t happen!  Another, more ominous, use of foreshadowing occurs when the children find the game in the park.  ““Look,” said Peter, pointing to a note taped to the bottom of the box.  In a childlike handwriting were the words “Free game, fun for some but not for all.  P.S. Read instructions carefully.””    

 

The illustrations place the viewer in the picture from a child’s perspective.  The very first drawing is of Peter and Judy playing with their toys in the house, and it’s as if the reader is sitting on the carpet watching them.  When the parents come home and ask how their afternoon was, the accompanying drawing of the four of them, along with one of the parent’s guests, cuts off the heads of the adults.

 

The story ends with Peter and Judy taking the game back where they found it.  Their parents’ guest, Mrs. Budwing, has just told Peter and Judy that her sons “. . . never read the instructions . . .”  Peter and Judy look out their window and see those same boys running through the park with the Jumanji game.  This cliffhanger leaves the reader wanting more and yet knowing what the rest of the story would hold.