|Published in 1998 by DK Publishing, Inc.|
Anthony Browne's Voices in the Park is an intriguing book that is told in first-person point of view from the perspective of four different characters from two very different families: (1) an unnamed, apparently rich, bossy woman, her son Charles, and their pedigree Labrador Retriever named Victoria (the first family) and (2) a sad man who is out of work and is trying desperately to find a job, his daughter Smudge, and their dog Albert, a mutt (the second family). The two families couldn't be more different in their characterization. The first family lives in a nice neighborhood and wears nice clothes. The second family lives in a poor neighborhood and appears "rough-looking." The illustrations throughout the story contrast the two families and each character's perspective as the story progresses.
Browne's picturebook is divided into four distinct parts that are titled: First Voice, Second Voice, Third Voice, and Fourth Voice. As the story unfolds from the perspective of each voice, the font is different, and it becomes clear that all four of the characters do not see their walk in the park from the same perspective.
The First Voice: The rich, bossy woman decides to take her son and dog for a walk in the park, but it seems she isn't enjoying herself. When she lets Victoria off her lease, she says, "Immediately some scruffy mongrel
The Second Voice is told from the perspective of the sad man. He is seen sitting in a chair dressed in overalls and has his hand pressed against his
The Third Voice is told from the perspective of the bossy woman's son Charles. He is seen all alone looking
The Fourth Voice is told from Smudge's perspective, a young girl who is friendly and pleasant despite her family's circumstances. She recognizes her dad is "fed up," and is happy when he said they were going to take a walk in the park. She remarks
I really enjoyed this book. It was interesting to see the experience of a simple walk in the park told from four very different perspectives. The illustrations are brightly colored paintings in which the characters are portrayed as monkeys. I don't really understand the purpose of this portrayal unless it was to distance the characters from actual people. I believe this would be a good book to teach children that people view the world from different backgrounds, life experiences, and knowledge, but if I were to use it, I would avoid the typical stereotypes that rich people are cold and selfish and poor people are just victims of their circumstances. I'm not sure what would be the best age group for this book. Younger children might not "get" it, but perhaps the book could be used to engage older students in meaningful discussions. I would like for some of my classmates to read this book; it would be interesting to see if they would be willing to read it to their K-3 age students. Teachers should use caution as to how they present the text if they choose to use it in their classrooms; this book could unintentionally perpetuate the idea of class warfare if not presented in a way that avoids stereotypes.
Meet Anthony Browne: Children's Laureate 2009-11 (British Author)
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