Reviews for Jumanji

Copyright © Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.

Without pictures, this would be a fairly orthodox horror story for kids: a jungle board game, found in the park with ominous instructions, produces at each square the children land on whatever wild creature (""Lion attacks, move back two spaces"") or natural disaster (""Monsoon season begins, lose one turn"") is called for--until, beset, the two youngsters are throwing the dice wildly to reach the last square (""Jumanji, a city of golden buildings and towers"") and free themselves of the jungle terror. This episode, however, is framed, in a conventional picture-book made, by their departing parents' injunction to ""keep the house neat"" and the parents' return, with guests, after the game is over and all is calm. A second sly jest provides the obligatory twist at the end: a guest's two children are returning from the park, discarded game in hand. What makes the pictures themselves problematic is: l) the heavy load of portent present from the start (as in Van Allsburg's earlier The Garden of-Abdul Gasazi), which robs the book of a contrast between the normal, everyday and the macabre; 2) Van Allsburg's freeze-dry surrealism, which renders the turbulence as a static charade, or tableau; and 3) the paradox that imagined horror is more skin-prickling than horror seen--with a child's mouth agape. Van Allsburg's artistic skill seems largely confined to the devising of special effects--these largely dependent, in turn, on oversize close-ups and dramatic angles. Once their shock-value wears off, these are boring pictures--with no feel in particular (down to the inappropriately babyish toys) for a child's world. Copyright ŠKirkus Reviews, used with permission.