Chris Van Allsburg, Jumanji
Published 1981 by Houghton Mifflin Company, 32p
Grown-ups should definitely learn from children how to use their imagination and escape reality. The language in fantasy books creates connections with the real world but if offers different possibilities to experience it. In fantasy, conventions are suppressed offering this way openness for participation. With passion, curiosity and engagement. Children’s world is incredible; it is a very dynamic and prolific universe where they find significance and growth.
Jumanji, written 35 years ago, is about a game that disturbs order and goes beyond reality. Young siblings Judy and Peter are left home alone as their parents go to the opera. Despite the advice that they should keep the house clean, the two get bored of waiting and doing nothing, take all the toys out of their toy chest, make a terrible mess and shortly go out to look for adventures. Peter finds a box behind a tree:
“What’s that?” Judy asked.
“It’s a game”, said Peter, handing her the box.
“JUMANJI”, Judy read from the box, “A JUNGLE ADVENTURE GAME.”
“VERY IMPORTANT: ONCE A GAME OF JUMANJI IS STARTED IT WILL NOT BE OVER UNTIL ONE PLAYER REACHES THE GOLDEN CITY.”
Despite the fact that they are black and white, the illustrations have wonder and abound in details. The moment they start to play, children’s order and tranquility are shaken. They plunge in a surreal world, living the most impressive adventure. There is thrill, danger and fervor. The exotic jungle moves in the children’s house.
Lying on the piano was a lion, staring at Peter and licking his lips.
Monkeys conquer the kitchen, tearing it apart and stealing the food, the monsoon brings heavy rain in the living room and enourmous rhinoceros crush the furniture in the house.
Extraordinary is brought in the ordinary, creating magic moments. Fear is felt but enthusiasm and joy will annul it, as imagination seems to be our most efficient function of the mind. And in the end, with the same creative force the children used to bring adventure in their lives, they will restore the initial moment of order and calm.
Complement Jumanji with David Mackintosh’s Lucky which explores children’s magical thinking and Michael Morpurgo’s I Believe in Unicorns, a beautiful book that teaches us about the cathartic power of stories.