The real and surreal blur in award-winning book.
Caldecott Medal and Honors

What parents need to know

Violence & scariness

Wild animals charge through a house.

Not applicable

Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that this book offers striking illustrations and a suspenseful adventure. Kids will be jumping up and down to find out what happens.

What's the story?

Rain, rhinoceroses, and monkeys--in the house! While playing the mysterious jungle board game of the title, Peter and Judy learn that virtually anything can happen. The real and surreal blur in this award-winning book with detailed black-and-white illustrations that will draw children in--even those who have seen the more elaborate movie.

Is it any good?


Children instinctively understand the deep sense of magic and imagination this book conjures. Boredom is a common complaint of children, and a stampede of jungle animals through the house is the perfect cure. The tension of how the house will be cleaned up before Mom and Dad come home adds to the suspense. There's also a subtle message below the story line: Bored children should be careful about what they wish for. Parents will appreciate that what saves the children is that they follow directions.

The illustrations have a surreal quality that complements the story. Each object, animal, or person is distinctly drawn, in richly shaded detail, and familiar household objects convey an aura of spooky calmness among the chaos. At story's end the parents return, but readers don't see their faces; the view is from a child's eye. Peter's conspiratorial look at his older sister reminds readers to side with the child's version of reality.

Families can talk about...

  • Families can talk about the notion of having jungle animals running through your house. Imagine if something like this happened to you -- what would you do? Do you think the kids in the story made good choices to solve their problem?

Book details

Author:Chris Van Allsburg
Illustrator:Chris Van Allsburg
Book type:Fiction
Publisher:Houghton Mifflin Children's Books
Publication date:April 21, 1981
Number of pages:32
Award:Caldecott Medal and Honors

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  • Not for Kids: Not age-appropriate for kids; not recommended for learning.

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Kid, 9 years old July 6, 2010
Book was perfect, movie was boring.
Teen, 14 years old Written bymkalv February 27, 2009


This book is great, but the film is better.
Kid, 10 years old May 23, 2015


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