Voices in the Park

Parks are wonderful places. We have some parks in Glen Rose that we visit sometimes. No dog parks, but dogs are allowed at the parks. One of the parks is kind of a historical place. There are buildings there from hundreds of years ago. This park is by the river and there is a nice walkway that meanders along beside the water. There is a playground and picnic tables and benches – places to let some wildness out or just to sit and contemplate.

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Another park is the soccer park. All the soccer fields are there and it can be a pretty busy place. There is also a playground for the kids and a track that meanders around the whole park for walkers and joggers. We go here often to walk with friends. This park is next to a big place where they have horse shows and rodeos and dog shows, so there are always interesting smells and sounds.

Parks are great places for all kinds of activities – running and playing, meeting up with friends, making new friends, having picnics, enjoying nature, reading a book or just enjoying some quiet moments all to yourself.

IMG_4777Anthony Browne wrote a great book about a park – Voices in the Park. It was published in 1998 by DK Publishing, Inc. That year it won the Kurt Maschler Award for a “work of imagination for children, in which text and illustration are integrated so that each enhances and balances the other.”

This is an incredible book on so many levels. It’s a story about how differently people see the world around them. It’s about how things may look one way on the outside, but be very different on the inside. It is the story of a day at the park from four different points of view. It begins with the Mother, an upper class, snobby gorilla lady who decides to take her son, Charles and their pedigree Labrador, Victoria to the park. She is not happy about anything at the park. Victoria is chased by a scruffy mongrel. There are frightful types in the park, and Charles disappears. She sees him talking to a rough looking child and orders him to come back to her. They walk home in silence. There are no smiles.

The Second voice belongs to a Father who decides to take his child, Smudge and their dog to the park. He spends his time sitting on the bench with the grumpy Mother looking through the newspaper for a job. Smudge is happy, the dog is happy, they all enjoy their time at the park and chatter together all the way home.

The Third voice is that of Charles. He seems a shy, reluctant boy but makes a new friend in Smudge. He hopes that she will be there the next time he goes.

The Fourth voice is that of Smudge. Smudge is the essence of joy.

IMG_4779In all of the illustrations, you see all the other characters and how they interact in the story. The two dogs are having a grand ole time running and chasing each other. The kids have a grand ole time playing together. But there is so much more going on in the pictures! When the Mother is shouting for Charles, the trees are shouting too. When the Father and Smudge are walking to the park, their neighborhood is dark and dreary with homeless people on the sidewalk. When they walk home there are cheery lights in the trees and buildings and the homeless people are dancing. In one picture of Smudge and Charles sitting on a park bench, Charles’s half of the picture is dark and dreary and Smudge’s half is sunny and bright.

Each voice is also presented in a different font. The Mother’s is a rather formal font, The Father’s is big and bold. Charles’s font is thin and almost invisible. The font for Smudge is happy-go-lucky.

Mr Browne is an absolute genius! We read this book with some 4th graders and they were mesmerized – searching for all the little subtleties in the pictures. A very engaging tale!

I have written about Mr Browne before HERE, HERE, and HERE, if you are interested in seeing more of him.

I wish for you a lovely day in the park! Keep your eyes and ears open to all around you!


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30 thoughts on “Voices in the Park

  1. I think this is one of the few Browne’s I have read and enjoyed. There’s something about his monkeys that generally creep me out so I avoid his books mostly, despite the rich illustrative bounty. Call me monkeyist, but there it is.

  2. Have never heard of this book, but will certainly check it out. Great review! And, I liked the pictures of you parks. It’s too wet and overcast here to enjoy the park — but that will soon pass. Enjoy your nice weather.

  3. Anthony Browne is one of my favourite authors. I used a couple of his books when writing my masters project. I think the guy’s brilliant.
    Enjoy the park, Rhthym!

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