I had never actually read the story Jumanji by Chris Van Allsburg. It is hard to read it now, as an adult, without picturing the movie starring Robin Williams and Bonnie Hunt. I read this book and immediately wanted to go watch the movie again. I find the story itself to be absolutely charming. The concept that a board game can affect reality is quite appealing. Though the book is more simplistic than the movie, I was quite impressed to realize how true to the book the movie had remained. I also found it impressive that the creators of the movie managed to expand what is arguably, a quite short story, into a full feature-length movie, without losing the feel of the book. I absolutely love the fact that Judy and Peter are still the stars of the movie, and that the guide they release in the book turns out to be Robin Williams’ character in the movie. Truly the movie did a superb job of transforming the book into live-action. The characters in the movie are dressed much as they were dressed in the book and the set resembles the Van Allsburg’s illustrations as well. Fans of Jumanji, the picture book, must have been thrilled to experience it as a movie.
Jumanji won the Caldecott award for its black and white charcoal pencil drawings. The drawings show an immense amount of detail, to an extraordinary degree at some points. For example, the drawing of Peter and Judy facing the adults at the end of the story is incredible. Judy’s hair is finely drawn, each individual strand rendered in exquisite detail. Similarly, her brother, Peter’s hair is carefully drawn, as is the expression on his face. In fact, I think the profile of Peter is incredibly well done. The smile on his face, the shaggy cut, the look in his eyes – all of these combine to make an amazingly realistic portrayal of a young child looking up toward his older sister. By contrast, the adults in this picture are featured from their necks down, with very little detail drawn. They are very much in the background, while the children remain the focus of this picture. It is an incredibly powerful rendering because ironically, the children stand with their backs to the reader, while the adults face the reader. And yet, the children are the ones our eyes are drawn to, while the adults remain a faded background to the children’s vibrancy.