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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Little Beauty PPBF

I am sooooooo excited about the book we found this week!!!

It’s a book by ANTHONY BROWNE!!!!!

Anthony Browne is the King of Gorillas. I have shared other of his books HERE and HERE.

Today’s book is one we found at the school library. It just popped out at me and made me go Whoa!!

IMG_4099Little Beauty. Just look at that cover! Doesn’t it make you say Whoa!!?!

It was published in 2008 by Candlewick Press. (You can never go wrong with Candlewick!)

It is a fiction book about friendship and gorillas and animal communication.

It is suitable for ages 3-7. We read it with some 4th graders and they loved it!

Little Beauty is about a very special gorilla living in a zoo.

It begins – “Once upon a time there was a very special gorilla who had been taught to use a sign language.”

Because he knew sign language he could “talk” to the keepers and ask them for things that he wanted or needed. And he had almost everything he wanted and needed. Except a friend, and he was sad and lonely.

img446Now is that a sad face or what?!

I can do that face too —

Copy of CIMG7898Anyway, the gorilla told the keepers that he wanted a friend. There were no other gorillas at the zoo so they were baffled about what to do.

But finally one of them came up with a great idea. They got the gorilla a kitten named Beauty. The gorilla loved Beauty, and they became BEST friends. They did everything together, and were happy for a long time.

But one day they watched a movie together. King Kong. And the movie upset the gorilla. So much so that he got angry and smashed the TV! The keepers rushed in to see what had happened. They said “Who broke the television?” and ” Now we have to take Beauty away.”  Oh, No! But then Beauty, the kitten, started to sign! She said “It was ME!!!!” This made the keepers laugh and they decided to let Beauty stay and the kitten and the gorilla lived happily ever after.

One reason that I like Mr Browne’s books is because the illustrations are so rich and full of detail. This book is a little different – there are some pictures that are just black and white sketches. Kind of unfinished. That made me stop and think about why he would do that. I’m not sure, but I think it may have something to do with the two characters being happy? Anyway, it kind of caught me off guard and made for an interesting bit to think about.

Now, this story may sound familiar to some of you — I recently did a review of a NON-fiction book about this very friendship. Koko’s Kitten. Koko is a REAL gorilla who uses sign language. And Koko got her very own kitten that she loved. This is one reason that I was so excited about this book, Little Beauty. The two books go together nicely.

For more information about gorillas and gorilla research visit the Gorilla Foundation HERE.

Anthony Browne was the Children’s Laureate from 2009-2011. For more about Mr Browne and for some teacher resources and information about some of his projects visit HERE.

And for more about unusual animal friendships you might check out this book –


Unlikely Friendships, by Jennifer S. Holland. As the cover says, this is a collection of stories and pictures of “Unlikely friendships” between different animal species. Stories and pictures with big AAAHHHH! factor.

I have a couple of videos of Mr Browne talking about this book Little Beauty that you might find interesting –

Now you must visit Susanna Hill’s Blog and see more Perfect Picture Books along with some great resources.

I wish you a Joyful weekend full of friends and good times


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:) World Smile Day :)

world-smile-day-2013-poster2-176x233Today happens to be World Smile Day. Doesn’t it make you smile just to hear that?! World Smile Day was created in 1999 by the inventor of that ever present Happy Face, Mr. Harvey Ball. He decided that the world should devote a day each year to sharing smiles and acts of kindness. 🙂

You can find out more about World Smile Day at their website HERE. 🙂 They have lots of fun stuff to do. 🙂

Walker and I did our part today by going to school and spreading our joy throughout the halls. We visited the office ladies and read with kids in the library.

IMG_3588I wish I could show you the big smiles on those kids faces! They know how to spread smiles and JOY! 🙂

We also visited with the 4th grade class of one of my favorite teachers – Ms Beauregard!

IMG_3597She is always very kind to us — sharing her banana chips. 😀 We picked out a couple of books to share with her kids. 🙂


My favorite was Willy and Hugh by Anthony Browne. I have a real soft spot in my heart for Mr Browne’s work.

This book was published in 1991 by Dragonfly Books.

It is suitable for ages 5-9. Our 4th graders enjoyed it and My Mom Person, who is an adult, loves it!

Themes are friendship and kindness

Opening — Willy was lonely. Everyone seemed to have friends. Everyone except Willy.

Willy is a lonely little chimp with a very sad face. Wandering through the park, he passes lots of other apes who are playing and enjoying the day with their friends. Suddenly a huge ape, named Hugh Jape, (isn’t that GREAT!!) ran right SMACK into Willy. They were both quite startled and apologetic. And instantly became friends. When Willy’s nemesis, Buster Nose, tried to pick on Willy, Hugh stood up for his new friend. They went off together and had a fun day. They even visited the library where Willy read to Hugh. When Hugh was terrified by a spider, Willy moved the spider away. And they were friends happily ever after. 🙂

Mr Browne has a unique way of bringing apes to human-like life. Their expressions are full of emotion. There is lots of humor in his work. From funny names to funny details in his artwork. Willy and Hugh visit the zoo and the picture shows the two of them standing outside the cage with a human family sitting on a couch inside the cage. 🙂

The kids in Mrs B’s class were doing a project about feelings and being empathetic. We had to look that word up in the dictionary. It means being able to put yourself in someone else’s shoes. My Mom Person puts me in her shoes sometimes. She thinks that’s funny. But to be kind to someone is to put yourself in their shoes and be empathetic. Willy and Hugh did that when they helped each other. 🙂 This is a great book to use as a jumping off point into a discussion about what it means to be a good friend. What are things that friends do for each other?

I hope that you go out and celebrate World Smile Day. It doesn’t take much. As Princess Reason in The Phantom Tollbooth says – “Whatever we do affects everything and everyone else, if even in the tiniest way …. when a housefly flaps his wings, a breeze goes round the world … and whenever you laugh, gladness spreads like the ripples in a pond.”

To find out more about chimpanzees and how you can help with conservation visit the Jane Goodall Institute HERE.

Ms Barbara Gruener is a lady who is all about smiles and kindness. She is a counselor at a school in Friendswood, Tx. She recently took on a challenge to do one act of kindness each day for 21 days! And I’m just asking you to do one day! She did an interesting post on her blog the other day about filling buckets. The comments were what particularly caught my attention — all the ways that people spread kindness and joy. You might check it out at Ms Gruener’s blog, Corner on Character.

Here’s a little video of Willy and Hugh made by “the Legends”, the Year 1 class of Warren Hills Primary School in Coalville — this is FANTASTIC!!

Think of ways that you can spread some JOY today! Spread Smiley Faces around your personal world! Let me know about what happens! Just SMILE!!!! 🙂 🙂 🙂

And you might want to visit Susanna Leonard Hill’s blog for Perfect Picture Book Friday and find more wonderful books and resources to go with them.


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Julie Rowan-Zoch recently did a stunning review of an Anthony Browne book titled One Gorilla a Counting Book. You should check out this review on her blog. Reading this review reminded the Mom Person that we actually had an Anthony Browne book called Gorilla. So we decided to reread this little gem and share it with you.


The Mom Person doesn’t remember when or where she found this book, but it’s a special one for her, having several important things going for it. One – it’s very small. 4″ X 5″. The Mom Person likes small books. Two – it’s about a gorilla. The Mom Person likes gorillas. I don’t know any gorillas so I can’t say if I like them or not, but I like the one in this book. Three – The Mom Person thinks that the illustrations in this book are fantastic. I agree with this. There is a feel of whimsical (I like that word, whimsical!) realism in each picture. And lots of funny little details to look for.  And Four – the story is a simple sweet one about having dreams and bringing them to life.

Gorilla is about a little girl who LOVES gorillas and wants to go to the zoo to see them. But her father is always too busy to take her. He’s too busy to do anything with her. It’s very sad. (There is no mother in this book. I don’t know why) On her birthday, she receives a toy gorilla and is rather miffed that it is not a real one. But in the night magical things happen that I won’t tell you about. You’ll have to read the book!


Gorilla was first published by Alfred A. Knopf in 1983. Our miniature edition was printed in 1991. I would imagine that the book can be found in a bigger size.  I highly recommend it!

Here’s a little video of Mr Browne and some other authors at a conference talking about the importance of picture books —