ZATHURA: A Space Adventure

Chris Van Allsburg, Author, Chris Van Allsburg, Illustrator . Houghton $18 (32p) ISBN 978-0-618-25396-8

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. (Oct.)

Reviewed on: 06/24/2002
Release date: 10/01/2002
Genre: Children's
MP3 CD - 978-1-9749-1924-6
Hardcover - 978-7-5133-2579-0
Compact Disc - 978-1-9749-1920-8
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