From Publishers Weekly
Twenty years after Jumanji (1981), Van Allsburg picks up where he left off, with Danny and Walter Budwing discovering an oblong box in the park. Walter dismisses the box as "just some dumb old game," but his curious younger brother takes it home anyway. While Walter watches TV, Danny glances at the game's "jungle adventure" board, then turns his attention to a second board with an outer-space theme and "a path of colored squares leading... to a purple planet called Zathura." Just then, "with a click, a small green card popped out of the edge.... He picked it up and read, `Meteor showers, take evasive action.' " The boys don't act too surprised when a giant meteor falls into their tastefully appointed living room, but they do get excited when they see only stars and dark sky outside their windows. Several dice-rolls later, they're scrambling to evade a homicidal robot and a scaly "Zyborg pirate" climbing backward through the meteor-hole in the ceiling (its face goes unseen). As the boys play, their sibling rivalry gives way to cooperation, and grouchy Walter comes to appreciate his little brother. Van Allsburg illustrates the surreal events in a grainy charcoal-black that seems to shimmer on a rough, cream-colored ground. His deathly quiet images double spreads this time have a frozen stillness that leaves all color and activity to the imagination; with each new threat, the book seems to hold its breath. Van Allsburg reuses some devices, and Zathura, like Jumanji, is a satisfying enigma. The puzzling conclusion, involving a black hole and time travel to an earlier illustration, will have devotees scouring the first book and its sequel for clues. All ages.
Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information, Inc.
From School Library Journal
Kindergarten-Grade 5-For more than 20 years, readers of Jumanji (Houghton, 1981) have had to wonder what happened when the Budwing brothers opened the box that Peter and Judy had frantically discarded in the park. The wait is over, but the wonder continues in this masterfully executed sequel. Walter's physical torture of his younger brother and Danny's annoying behaviors are classic sibling stuff, but savvy readers will recognize that this lack of camaraderie does not bode well here. The simple jungle board does not appeal to Walter, however, so it is not until another game board is uncovered at the bottom of the box that the action begins. This time, the children face the challenges of space, time, and dimension as they read the game cards: "The polarity on your gravity belt is reversed" and "Your gyroscope is malfunctioning." Their journey to the planet Zathura allows Van Allsburg to depict Walter plastered against the living-room ceiling or being swallowed by a black hole. As ringed planets and spaceships swirl past the windows, the boys find their way to teamwork and even affection. Van Allsburg's choice of highly textured paper adds interest and character; the patterned wallpapers are especially effective as homey counterpoints to the surreal story. The creamy background provides warmth and contrast to the black-and-gray sketches, so convincing in conveying depth of field. One can't help but anticipate the encore.Wendy Lukehart, Washington DC Public Library
Copyright 2002 Reed Business Information, Inc.