BROWNE, A. (1998). VOICES IN THE PARK. New York: DK Publishing, Inc.
Anthony BrowneÃƒƒƒƒÃƒƒ‚Ãƒ‚Ã‚Â¢€™s Voices in the park (1998) is contemporary realistic fiction, in the form of a picture book. On the surface this book is about a trip to the park, told from four different viewpoints. At a deeper level, Browne is highlighting the theme of socio-economic and personality differences. In typical Browne style, the heart of this book is its unique surreal artwork, providing a rich visual feast for the eyes.
The voices referred to in the title belong to two families. There are Charles, his mother and ÃƒƒƒƒÃƒƒ‚Ãƒ‚Ã‚Â¢€œVictoria, our pedigree LabradorÃƒƒƒƒÃƒƒ‚Ãƒ‚Ã‚Â¢€�; and Smudge, her father and Albert - ÃƒƒƒƒÃƒƒ‚Ãƒ‚Ã‚Â¢€œsome scruffy mongrelÃƒƒƒƒÃƒƒ‚Ãƒ‚Ã‚Â¢€� to quote CharlesÃƒƒƒƒÃƒƒ‚Ãƒ‚Ã‚Â¢€™ mother. Victoria and Albert hit it off from page two, much to MotherÃƒƒƒƒÃƒƒ‚Ãƒ‚Ã‚Â¢€™s annoyance. One striking picture shows Mother with her hat blown straight up off her head, the flowers standing up off her scarf and vectors drawing the eye to her. The reader is aligned with Smudge looking at Mother from a high angle close up view, emphasising MotherÃƒƒƒƒÃƒƒ‚Ãƒ‚Ã‚Â¢€™s superiority. (SheÃƒƒƒƒÃƒƒ‚Ãƒ‚Ã‚Â¢€™s) ÃƒƒƒƒÃƒƒ‚Ãƒ‚Ã‚Â¢€˜ÃƒƒƒƒÃƒƒ‚Ãƒ‚Ã‚Â¢€Ãƒƒƒ‚Ãƒƒ‚Ãƒ‚Ã‚Â¦really angry, the silly twitÃƒƒƒƒÃƒƒ‚Ãƒ‚Ã‚Â¢€™ thinks Smudge.
Browne very effectively separates his characters in multiple ways. Each is introduced with a heading (First, Second, Third and Fourth Voice). A different font for each voice cleverly represents their characteristics of judgment, depression, oppression and cheerfulness. The characters are drawn as gorillas, whose wonderful expressions range from proud self-righteousness and alarm to sad longing and joy. They represent different seasons, shown visually through form, colour and shadow. A lamp post creates a stunning vector separating the elegance of MotherÃƒƒƒƒÃƒƒ‚Ãƒ‚Ã‚Â¢€™s world and the shabbiness of DadÃƒƒƒƒÃƒƒ‚Ãƒ‚Ã‚Â¢€™s. The same post later highlights CharlesÃƒƒƒƒÃƒƒ‚Ãƒ‚Ã‚Â¢€™ gloom and SmudgeÃƒƒƒƒÃƒƒ‚Ãƒ‚Ã‚Â¢€™s hope. Layout in this picture has the children at the bottom looking at each other, offering the viewer freedom to focus on the top. CharlesÃƒƒƒƒÃƒƒ‚Ãƒ‚Ã‚Â¢€™ landscape is overcast, with storm clouds and leafless trees. SmudgeÃƒƒƒƒÃƒƒ‚Ãƒ‚Ã‚Â¢€™s background depicts light, clear blue sky, leafy trees and a fairy tale castle.
Although the illustrations appear simple, each visit becomes an adventure of exciting discovery. ÃƒƒƒƒÃƒƒ‚Ãƒ‚Ã‚Â¢€œI know itÃƒƒƒƒÃƒƒ‚Ãƒ‚Ã‚Â¢€™s a waste of time but youÃƒƒƒƒÃƒƒ‚Ãƒ‚Ã‚Â¢€™ve got to have some hope, havenÃƒƒƒƒÃƒƒ‚Ãƒ‚Ã‚Â¢€™t you?ÃƒƒƒƒÃƒƒ‚Ãƒ‚Ã‚Â¢€� asks Dad as he reads the paper in search of a job, a picture of The Scream on the paperÃƒƒƒƒÃƒƒ‚Ãƒ‚Ã‚Â¢€™s cover echoing his despair. However ÃƒƒƒƒÃƒƒ‚Ãƒ‚Ã‚Â¢€œSmudge cheered me up. She chattered happily to me all the way home.ÃƒƒƒƒÃƒƒ‚Ãƒ‚Ã‚Â¢€� The wall passed on their return journey is transformed from drab to warmly glowing by the lamp post, which is now a huge flower. More examples of intertextuality appear as Santa, previously begging by the wall is now dancing on his toes beside The laughing cavalier and Mona Lisa. The latter two, previously trapped, miserable and sitting in a puddle, have escaped their frames and are in each otherÃƒƒƒƒÃƒƒ‚Ãƒ‚Ã‚Â¢€™s arms, dancing. One senses a feeling of victory, highlighted by King KongÃƒƒƒƒÃƒƒ‚Ãƒ‚Ã‚Â¢€™s silhouette on top of the nearby high rise, itsÃƒƒƒƒÃƒƒ‚Ãƒ‚Ã‚Â¢€™ dull grey windows transformed to bright yellow, green and red. The overall mood has changed from bleakness to joy.
Voices in the park is a treasure for all age groups ÃƒƒƒƒÃƒƒ‚Ãƒ‚Ã‚Â¢€“ the very young for the simple story and stunning illustrations, and for older readers the deeper meaning calling from each page. Anthony Browne has hit the mark with this book, which in his own words, ÃƒƒƒƒÃƒƒ‚Ãƒ‚Ã‚Â¢€œleave[s] a gap that is filled by the readerÃƒƒƒƒÃƒƒ‚Ãƒ‚Ã‚Â¢€™s imaginationÃƒƒƒƒÃƒƒ‚Ãƒ‚Ã‚Â¢€Ãƒƒƒ‚Ãƒƒ‚Ãƒ‚Ã‚Â¦ÃƒƒƒƒÃƒƒ‚Ãƒ‚Ã‚Â¢€� A book well worth reading again and again, Voices in the park is a valuable addition to any library.show more
by Bev Collins