Module 2 Book Reviews

Jumanji by Chris Van Allsburg



Ever hear the phrase “curiosity killed the cat?”  Well that is exactly what almost happened in this book by Chris Van Allsburg.  When Peter and Judy are left at home alone for the night, they quickly become bored.  Finding a game under a tree in the park they see a note that warns them to read the instructions; they take the game home anyway.

Once the children start playing the game they realize it isn’t like any other game they have played before.  The things described on the game board start occurring in their house, which is soon taken over by jungle animals including a lion, a stampede of rhinos, a giant python and some mischievous monkeys.  The only way to get rid of all the craziness is to continue playing the game until there is a winner.  Once Judy wins, the house is magically put back to normal.  The children quickly pack up the game and bring it back to where they found it, leaving it for the next unsuspecting victims.

Van Allsburg, C.  (1981).  Jumanji.  New York:  Houghton Mifflin Company.

My Impressions

I really enjoyed the illustrations and the plot of this book.  This was another one where I had seen the movie years earlier, so I had an idea what the book was about.  I find it amazing to see where the two formats intersect and where they differ.  I found it very hard to believe that this book was published in 1981.  The illustrations seemed very current, ahead of their time.

The combination of the text and the illustrations made this book an intriguing read.  Everything was in black-and-white, but Van Allsburg was able to capture the moods and the atmosphere using contrasting shades.   He made the characters and the book come alive using this technique.   I really loved these illustrations.


By Elizabeth Bird

#50: Jumanji by Chris Van Allsburg (1981)
27 points (4 votes, #7, #3, #2, #5)

Look no further than the cover artwork to witness Van Allsburg’s eerie, draftsman-like precision on full display. Jumanji (published in 1981) takes a story that could have turned out silly and crafts a hauntingly beautiful title through illustrations that speak volumes. – Travis Jonker

For those of you wondering where Mr. Van Allsburg has been hiding all this time, I can now tell you that he’s been lurking about the top of the list.  Now this is not going to be Van Allburg’s only appearance in the Top 50.  He has at least one other title coming up as well.  But it’s satisfying to see him make his appearance.  As a kid, Van Allsburg was one of my favorites.  I was always drawn to realistic illustrations.  I think I was probably most fond of his The Stranger, a book that to my mind doesn’t ever get enough attention.  And with this book, a Caldecott Medal winner, the man managed to combine realism with his customary insanity beautifully.

From my review: “Peter and Judy have been left home alone by their opera attending parents and boy are they boredy bored bored. After playing with their toys and making a mess they decide to take a run to the park. Once there, they discover an abandoned board game called Jumanji sitting beneath a tree. On a note taped to the bottom of the box read the words, ‘Free game, fun for some but not for all. P.S. Read instructions carefully.’ The kids don’t know what to expect but they take the game with them anyway. After reading the instructions they find that once a person begins Jumanji they cannot stop until someone has won the game. The first roll of the die leads to a space that reads, ‘Lion attacks, move back two spaces.’ Suddenly there’s a real live lion in the room, and it’s regarding Peter hungrily. The kids realize, to their horror, that whatever happens on the board happens in real life. If they want to finish the game (and remain alive) they’re going to have to continue.”

The film adaptation of Jumanji drilled home the fact that it is almost impossible to make a picture book into a decent full length motion picture.  Who was in that thing anyway?  I remember Robin Williams and Kirsten Dunst . . . wait a sec . . . Bonnie Hunt was in it?  Bebe Neuwirth?  Wow.

Unmemorable movie.  Memorable book.  You can read it here if you like.

Bird, E.  (2009, April 13).  Top 100 Picture Books (Review of Jumanji).  School Library Journal.  Retrieved from


This book would definitely get a young child’s imagination working, but very young (beginner) readers would have a hard time with the text.  Older more experienced readers would not have a problem.  The use of the fantastically detailed pictures will help those younger readers understand what was going on.  For a library program that includes everyone, it would be fun to design our own board game as a group after we read the book together.  We could then play the game ourselves and open it up to other library patrons.  This activity would teach kids the importance of working together, not giving up until they are done and to enjoy themselves (all themes that are apparent in the book).

A Ball for Daisy by Chris Raschka



This is a simple picture book that relies on the use of pictures to tell the story.  Daisy is a cute little dog who has a beloved red ball that she does everything with.  The ball is never very far from Daisy, that is, until she takes it to the park and a bigger dog gets a hold of it and destroys it.  Daisy is heartbroken and at a loss for what to do.  Her spirits are lifted when she returns to the park and that big dog and his owner have bought a new blue ball for Daisy!

Raschka, C.  (2011).  A Ball for Daisy.  New York:  Schwartz & Wade Books.

My Impressions

I read this book with my 9 year old son and we both thoroughly enjoyed it.  Raschka’s use of simple primary colors got our attention and Daisy was just adorable.  We couldn’t stop following her through the book.  We were just as heartbroken as Daisy was when her ball was popped.  Raschka did a great job using pictures to tell this story; we could really see the emotions that Daisy was going through.  It is amazing when an illustrator can do that without the use of words.  This was a very cute picture book that I would recommend to anyone but especially those who love dogs or has ever had a toy they love get destroyed.


By Kathleen T. Horning

Winner: A Ball for Daisy by Chris Raschka; illus. by the author (Schwartz & Wade/Random)
Starred review in The Horn Book Magazine, September/October 2011
The wordless story begins on the title page, where we see a scruffy little black-and-white dog about to be given a big red ball. It’s clear from the start that Daisy loves her new toy. After playing with it inside, she cuddles up with the ball on the sofa and contentedly falls asleep. The real drama begins with a trip to the park, where Daisy and her little-girl owner play catch and have a moment of panic when the ball goes over a fence and has to be rescued. All goes well until another dog shows up, joins in the play, and pops the ball. It’s a long walk home with gloomy Daisy, and the subsequent nap on the couch is lonely. In fact, the two contrasting double-page spreads of Daisy napping, with the ball and without it, show the ingenious artistry of Raschka, who communicates so much emotion through her posture. Throughout, Raschka uses broad strokes of gray and black paint to outline the dog, and varies the line to echo her emotions: bold, sure lines when Daisy is happy; shaky, squiggly lines when she is upset. Background watercolor washes also reflect Daisy’s mood, going from bright yellows and greens to somber purples and browns. Raschka employs a series of horizontal frames to show sequential action, interspersed with occasional single paintings to show pivotal moments, such as the moment near the end of the book when Daisy gets a brand-new ball, this time a blue one, from the owner of the dog who destroyed her first one. It’s a satisfying conclusion to a story that is noteworthy for both its artistry and its child appeal. KATHLEEN T. HORNING

Horning, K.  (2011, September/October).  Reviews of the 2012 Caldecott Winners (Review of A Ball for Daisy).  Retrieved from



This is a book that I would use in my preschool story time.  The younger children would love the colors, but I would be making up the dialog and describing the pictures.  The preschool story time children would be old enough to describe to me what was going on.  I always love to hear the children’s side of the story, so this would be a fun activity, to let them create.  During this story time we could also play a sharing game with a ball, maybe hot potato.

Another idea is to have our therapy dogs come visit during this activity.  Children can “read” the book to the dogs and then play catch in the back garden.


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