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Jungle Gym Jitters

Jungle Gym Jitters

by Chuck Richards

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Jerry's father is a creative genius, always thinking of ways to make life more interesting. But when he starts building a jungle gym that gets taller and taller, twisting all the way up to the sky, the soaring spectacle makes Jerry seriously squeamish.

Jerry's jungle gym jitters get worse when he sees fearless friends and acrobatic animals hanging from tires and


Jerry's father is a creative genius, always thinking of ways to make life more interesting. But when he starts building a jungle gym that gets taller and taller, twisting all the way up to the sky, the soaring spectacle makes Jerry seriously squeamish.

Jerry's jungle gym jitters get worse when he sees fearless friends and acrobatic animals hanging from tires and riding through tunnels. The overgrown obstacle course is scary enough for Jerry, but when a fire traps his daredevil sister in the towering contraption, only Jerry can save her. Can he summon the courage to rise to the occasion, or will the jungle gym jitters paralyze him?

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Richards debuts with this spectacularly illustrated, over-the-top tale about a boy whose father gets carried away with his aspirations for the backyard jungle gym. Sepia-toned artwork set against a 1950s backdrop (hula hoops and saddle shoes abound) spotlight young Jerry and a fear of heights that escalates in direct proportion to his sky-climbing jungle gym. Initial panels and two-page illustrations, framed in elegant ivory borders, reveal the inspirations for his father's outlandish handiwork: a trip to the donut shop results in the addition of tire swings, washing the car amidst a tangle of hoses leads to towering, slide-like chutes. "Jerry's worst nightmares would soon be outmatched/ by the tangle of tracks and long tunnels that scratched/ at the summery sky like some scribbly scrawl,/ with silvery loops that were sixty-feet tall." Dozens of acrobatic children and grown-ups barrel down the shiny curves in whimsical contraptions, including mechanized jungle animals, a pumpkin-wheeled bike and a winged canoe that swoop through the loops. The elaborate colored pencil and graphite drawings will reward readers who pore over the incredible details and exceptional perspectives. (Careful inspection reveals a character resembling Dr. Seuss's Grinch atop a sleigh pulled by an antler-topped dachshund.) The rhyming text at times feels a bit forced or rushed, which detracts from the extraordinary, painstakingly executed artwork. But youngsters will hope for much more from this imaginative artist's drawing board. Ages 4-9. (Oct.) Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
School Library Journal
K-Gr 3-While cleaning up his wood shop, Jerry J. Jingle's dad has a flash of inspiration. As his vision gradually takes shape, a jungle gym emerges, but before long, the fun turns to terror for Jerry and the community. Dad's frenzy becomes maniacal, and the structure soon incorporates "silvery loops that were sixty-feet tall," sky-high tire swings, a host of jungle creatures, and gigantic blimps that careen in a dizzying whirl. During a wild celebration, a fiery limbo dance imperils everyone, particularly the protagonist's sister. Richards's surreal scenes, composed with colored and graphite pencils on gray paper, are reminiscent of Chris Van Allsburg's work in Jumanji (Houghton, 1981). The compositions here are more crowded and frenetic, but the extreme perspectives, retro setting, and monochromatic tones invite comparison. The rhymed text, however, is awkward, and the boy's protracted jitters don't allow for much of an emotional range: "Long strings of tire swings swooped up through the sky/as, longingly, Jerry watched life pass him by." There is not enough storytelling going on in the visuals to sustain interest through the pedestrian and predictable narrative. For more satisfying tales involving invention and courage, try William Joyce's Santa Calls (HarperCollins, 1993) or Paul Fleischman's Weslandia (Candlewick, 1999).-Wendy Lukehart, Washington DC Public Library Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
Equal parts Chris Van Allsburg, Arthur Geisert, and M.C. Escher, the stunningly accomplished art in this tale of a height-sensitive lad facing a truly gonzo jungle gym makes for a riveting read. As Jerry looks on with increasing unease, his inspired father George builds and rebuilds a construct in the backyard that begins with a few pieces of scrap lumber, but ends in an immense, swirling maze of hoops, wires, poles, tires, looping slides, and gadgets that tower impossibly into the sky. And in Richards's maniacally detailed, tinted-pencil drawings, it's festooned with dozens of tiny but individually distinct neighborhood children, borrowed zoo animals, and sight gags. Ultimately, Jerry snatches triumph from near disaster when the overgrown plaything catches fire during a town-wide jungle party and he has to nerve himself to rescue his little sister from a high perch. The rhymed text is nothing special, but children will pore delightedly over the teeming artwork. The playful, plainly competent George makes a refreshing change of pace from the way dads are usually portrayed. (Picture book. 6-9)

Product Details

Walker & Company
Publication date:
Edition description:
Ages 4 to 9
Product dimensions:
9.34(w) x 12.30(h) x 0.41(d)
Age Range:
4 - 9 Years

Read an Excerpt

Jungle GYM Jitters



Copyright © 2004 Chuck Richards
All right reserved.

ISBN: 0-8027-8931-5

Chapter One

Jerry J. Jingle had fun every day, for Jerry's dad, George, had a brain made for play. When Dad got an idea that planted its seed, Fun would sprout up like a blossoming weed.

Now Jerry's mom, Midge, had been bugging his pop to clear out the "jungle of junk" in his shop. But Dad was distracted by silly squirrel pranks and got an idea for his stack of wood planks.

By late afternoon Dad had proudly unveiled the new jungle gym his hammer just nailed. Jerry hung loose with a monkey-faced frown while Judy, his sister, showed off upside down.

That night after supper, as Jerry did math and Judy went up for her usual bath, nobody saw that while washing the dishes, Dad began planning his jungle gym wishes.

At dawn the next day, Jerry jumped out of bed to a hammer that TAP-TAPPA-TAPPED in his head. His eyes grew in size at the overgrown sight of the jungle gym Dad had now tripled in height.

Monday at work found George overreacting to playful ideas that became too distracting. As one might have guessed, the boss wasn't impressed, so he sent Dad home early to catch up on rest.

When Jerry came home his mouth opened in awe. His friends were sky-high on a giant seesaw. As he studied the moves of those strange seesaw sitters He was suddenly sick with the jungle gym jitters!

While dunking a donut the following morning, a vision of fun came to Dad without warning. And Jerry could tell by the way he was looking that this meant more jungle gym trouble was cooking.

Long strings of tire swings swooped up through the sky as, longingly, Jerry watched life pass him by. A contest for "king of the jungle" took place. Of course, Judy won with her usual grace.

Who would have thought that just washing the car could make his dad act in a way this bizarre? Jerry ducked clear of the garden hose stream. To him this was all one big, terrible dream.

But Jerry's worst nightmares would soon be outmatched by the tangle of tracks and long tunnels that scratched at the summery sky like some scribbly scrawl, with silvery loops that were sixty-feet tall.

His knees started knocking, his tongue started swelling. Jerry once lost his lunch (but that's not worth telling). The poor boy knew this of his terrible curse: His jungle gym jitters would only get worse.

In a couple of days this prediction came true. Dad went off on "safari" (a trip to the zoo) and brought back a truckload of jungly critters, whose animal antics gave Jerry worse jitters.

The garage was demolished, and where it once stood was a towering giant of tires and wood. And animal acrobats swung through the sky, while daredevil kids made up new ways to fly.

Now Jerry's heart thumped, and his ears started ringing. He hardly could stand all this swooping and swinging. To make matters worse, Jerry's house was a mess, and living there caused more emotional stress....

For Dad had cut tunnels that ran through the place. The coaster now WHOOSHED through their living room space. But worse than the noise in this upside-down dwelling were animal houseguests you couldn't help smelling!

Not seeing his family's growing frustration, Dad proudly made plans for a wild celebration. He mailed coconut invitations to all, and soon the whole town would be having a ball.

The jungle bash happened that Saturday night. They all danced around in the glowing torchlight. The limbo dance contest was truly amazing as Jerry grabbed hold of a pole set a-blazing.

But the party soon went from the best to the worst when the mayor's grass hula skirt suddenly burst into flickering flames that flared from his fanny, then spread through the jungle to each nook and cranny!

So the panicky crowd beat a hasty retreat to escape from the jungle gym's horrible heat. Jerry heard screams as the fire climbed higher-Judy was trapped in the sky, in a tire!

Up in the air, very high overhead, Judy hung on for dear life by a thread! Now Jerry was certain she'd fall any minute. If he was to save her, he'd better begin it.

He rescued her on his giraffe elevator. "You're king of the jungle!" he yelled to persuade her. As Judy snapped out of her terrified trance, she barely escaped by the seat of her pants!

Then Jerry took charge of an army of elephants. He battled the fire with courage and confidence. The flames were no match for the streams from their noses. They put out that blaze with their wrinkly gray hoses.

And everyone there learned a lesson that night, that courage means acting in spite of your fright. For Jerry had not only just saved the day, he'd chased all his jungle gym jitters away.


Excerpted from Jungle GYM Jitters by CHUCK RICHARDS Copyright © 2004 by Chuck Richards. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Meet the Author

Chuck Richards is an artist who has been teaching college-level drawing to first year art and design majors for the past twenty years.

One day he was riding his bike past an elementary school playground with a fantastic, large wooden play structure and thought that it would be a useful tool for teaching his students linear perspective. At the same time, his children were bringing home amazing picture books. The two events combined to spark the idea for Jungle Gym Jitters, which took five years to create. Jungle Gym Jitters marks his debut as a picture-book artist.

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