An Examination of Children's Books and Picture Books
Children's Literature and Books Home
Picture Books Home

Picture Book Review-Chris Van Allsburg-Zathura

Zathura is a rare science fiction picture book, one that is more then worth reading, continuations by Allsburg of his idea of a board game which causes real world effects. In Zarthura a little brother plays with the board game which he finds under a tree. The game board sends the boy and his older brother and their house into space, where the difficulty cards become real. When they roll for meteor shower one hits their house, when they are attacked by space pirates in the game aliens invade their house. A fun little story with a good lesson, Zathura is defiantly a must read.

Illustrated in black and white stippling like the noise of a TV the distant remnants of the big bang that created the universe this picture book is a series of double spreads, opening with an angry older brother and a hurt little brother, and a mom who has come up to scold the older brother and say goodbye. The mothers face is hidden only the back of her head is seen as she frames the picture in. She is merely a framing object in this story, a fact which seems to say that parents are often just framing objects surrounding and holding together the world of childhood, but not necessarily in it, at least not in the hyper-real world created by Allsburg. In the background a spaceship lets us see the interest in space that will lead to other problems later on. The second picture of the book is of the older brother squeezing the younger brothers nose out in the park. In the bottom left corner of the double spread one can see the board game Jumanji.

Allsburg is able to separate the brothers in the pictures throughout the book, through warped perspective and objects. In one picture the older brother sits in a large easy chair, his face warped by the perspective. The younger brother sits facing away from him hidden in the corner in his own little world. In another picture the older brothers body acts as a barrier for we naturally gravitate to his face which is at a force perspective up so though connected with his body is visually separate from it which along with his arm frames in the younger brother still stuck in his own little world. It isn't until they are attacked by robots and many other things that we see them connected in the same frame, as they sit at the game looking out to the attacking space pirates.

They connect are visually and emotionally connected to each other as brothers should be at the end of the book as well, as they walk home, the younger brother with no memory of what had happened, and the older knowing exactly what had happened. Though in this last picture they are but a small part of the structure, for in this picture book they are but a small part of the larger universe.