By Chris Van Allsburg


The tale begins when two children are left home alone for a day while their parents go out. They play games to pass the time, but soon become bored, so they go to the park, where they find a normal looking board game under a tree. Bored and feeling adventurous, the children take the game home and begin to play. It seems like a normal board game at first: roll the dice, land on a space on the board, etc. But it soon becomes terrifying when the game comes to life, and the animals within the game begin to roam around their house. They desperately try to stop playing, but the most important rule in Jumanji is that you don't stop playing until the game is over.

Literary Elements:

The plot is greatly reflected in the illustrations on each page. The illustrations do not add additional plot to the story, they rather create a deeper visualization of whatever is occurring on the page. The illustrations help the readers understand the characters better by capturing their body language and facial expressions, which often adds that element of fear to the story. For instance, one can imagine the sentences, “He ran upstairs and dove under the bed. The lion tried to squeeze under, but got his head stuck”. But the accompanying picture shows the look of absolute terror on the little boy’s face that sparks a feeling of terror in the reader as well, something that probably would not have happened without the illustration. The pictures also grasp the setting of the story by making each picture identical (setting-wise); this repetition makes the reader feel as if the events are really taking place. The theme in this story is person vs. nature, in which the children are forced to battle the creatures that come out of the game. The illustrations really add to this because the images are so dramatic and intense. Adding onto that, the style is also well captured because the vivid and dramatic word choice is reflected with equally vivid pictures.

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Physical Features:

The book is large and rectangular. This makes the book seem more traditional and friendly, when really it is the opposite, which could potentially symbolize the jumanji board game: something so normal and inviting looking, yet completely unconventional and somewhat traumatizing is inside. The cover of the book is an image directly from the text that showcases the fear in the young girl as the animals are coming to life, which sums up the entire book in one simple picture. The paper is thick, which makes each page turn more dramatic as you hear the paper swooshing backwards to display a new scenario.

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Visual Elements:

Every illustration is very large and zoomed in, with a background consisting of square shapes and vertical/horizontal lines, while the main image of the picture stands out due to its different shape and diagonal lines. This makes the main image seem more intense and important, and also more frightening since the readers eyes are automatically drawn to the horrors of the picture. The constant black and white pictures also make it seem like an old horror film, which increases interest and suspense. What’s interesting is that the point of view/distance of the images correlates with the text: on pages with less exciting/less dangerous scenes, the pictures are from a birds-eye view and appear further away. However, on pages that are action-packed and drastic, the view is more head-on and close up to the scene, which adds suspense and makes the reader feel like a part of the turmoil unfolding.

Artistic Style:

The style used is surrealism. This is evident throughout the book as the images are distorted in ways to make them seem more dramatic, such as putting great detail into the main character(s) on the page and less detail on the minor characters. Another element is the contrast of light and shadowing to also add drama and darkness to the pictures. Of course, surrealism is evident in more obvious ways as well, such as the impossibility of any of these events ever happening. The whole book, text and images, seem like an elaborate dream, which is another part of surrealism. The author and illustrator use surrealism because it makes the story more extraordinary and enticing.

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Artistic Media:

The illustrations are drawn with black conte crayon. This is symbolic of the darkness and treachery in the story, and also aid in the surrealism by making a clear-cut contrast between light and dark. An interesting note is that the story starts off with less contrast and dimension, and it gradually becomes more vivid and dimensional, which goes hand in hand with the text in the sense that the text starts off innocent and becomes more somber with each page. It also can be compared to a dream: dreams become more vivid as you fall into a deeper sleep and your imagination runs wild.

Elements of Illustration:

Each illustration has a clean-cut frame to separate the pictures from the rest of the book. This contrast between pictures and white borders is similar to the contrast of light and darkness in the illustrations. The illustrations follow a chronological sequence, which adds suspension and makes it yet again seem more dreamlike. The page turns are another interesting element to the story. Each page flip (so, both of the 2 pages) only have one snip of text on the left and the blown up picture on the right, which increases suspense because only one scene unfolds per flip and the reader is left oblivious to what happens next in the story. The illustrator chose to put the pictures on the right side because the pictures, the most dramatic part, are the last thing the reader sees before flipping the page, which leaves sort of a cliff hanger.

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Interplay of Text and Illustration:

The text and illustrations feed off of each other. The images make the text come to life and seem exhilarating, while the text makes the pictures seem scarier by adding in the suspenseful tone and descriptive language. The text would still be understandable and thrilling without the pictures, but the pictures leave less to the imagination and paint an expressive and lucid picture to accompany the text. For instance, the quote, “Suddenly a heard of rhinos charged through the living room and into the dining room, crushing all the furniture in their path” would not be as exciting without the illustration of two large rhinos storming the living room with furniture falling and cords intertwined in their horns.
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