Review By CAROLYN M. MULLIN
Famous for timeless works such as Jumanji, Zathura and The Polar Express, Chris Van Allsburg brings his exquisite artwork and poignant words to the pages of Just a Dream, an environmental tale cloaked in the guise of an “I could care less” youth. Young Walter is a typical urbanite, tossing recyclables into the trash, mocking his neighbor Nancy for receiving a tree for her birthday, and preferring to daydream about living a life much like that of his favorite TV show- with helper robots and a personal plane.
He dreams that night about the future, but it’s certainly nothing like what he had in mind. Here’s where Mr. Van Allsburg’s talent shines. Artistically, he portrays each vivid scene from a unique perspective –from a mountaintop to the oceans’ lapping waves to a bird’s eye view. Walter’s bed takes him to harrowing landscapes: his childhood home devoured by a landfill, poisonous smokestacks that churn out medicine to combat “burning throats and itchy eyes,” fishermen who celebrate catching their second, tiny fish for the week. Come morning, Walter finds that owning a plane doesn’t seem important. In his pajamas, he bolts for the garbage to sort the recycling and for his birthday asks for a tree to plant next to Nancy’s.
The ending a mixed bag. For some, perhaps, the ideal future is a suburban setting where families do hang their laundry out to dry and use human-powered mowers for the lawn, as Mr. Van Allsburg depicts. How do your kids envision an ideal future for themselves, the animals and the earth?
For interactive activities, wallpaper, bookmarks, etc, visit the official Chris Van Allsburg web site.
Ages 4- 8.