Voices in the Park

A Book Review

Editor's Note: Many voices combine here to provide an extensive review of Anthony Browne's most recent book, Voices in the Park. This posting is divided into the sections listed below. Read on to find out what adults and children think about this very intriguing story!

Bibliographic Information

Voices in the Park. Written and illustrated by Anthony Browne. New York: DK Publishing, 1998. Recommended for ages 5 to 9. Unpaged. Note: You can visit DK Publishing at http://www.dk.com.

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Information about the Reviewers

Voices in the Park was reviewed by the editor of this section of ROL, Linda Labbo, and by Susanmarie L. Harden and her grades K to 3 students at Thomson Elementary School in Thomson, Georgia, USA. Ms. Harden, a reading resource teacher, is currently working on a graduate degree at the University of Georgia in the Department of Reading Education. Her own review includes a brief description of the book, comments about the story's appeal by grade level, and, in a separate section, suggestions for extension activities.

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Section Editor's Voice

Anthony Browne is the author and illustrator of more than 20 children's books, including Changes, Gorilla, and King Kong. This prolific author, who has twice been awarded the prestigious Kate Greenaway Medal, has once again written and illustrated a thought-provoking book inVoices in the Park. The story, which offers four characters' views of their visit to a city park, is told through a subtle interplay among narrative, dialogue, and illustration in four vignettes or voices. A bossy gorilla mother, her cautious son, and their dog meet a depressed gorilla father, his optimistic daughter, and their dog out for an afternoon in a park. Each character's outlook on life is expressed through changes in color hues and details in the illustrations. For example, trees that were bare in the father's vignette are full of life and fruit when seen from the girl's perspective.

This book invites readers of all ages to engage in multiple readings as they ponder the pictorial metaphors and consider how the same event may be experienced so differently by different individuals.

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Teacher's Voice

Anthony Browne has written and illustrated an intriguing story told from the perspectives of four gorilla characters: a mean mother, a sad father, a lonely young son, and a cheerful daughter. The little girl adds a spark to the little boy's life and cheers up the father. The author uses different styles of type to represent each character in the story. The illustrations are fascinating, and every time a viewer looks at them he or she is likely to notice something not previously seen.

I can highly recommend this book to other teachers and to parents. All of the teachers, parents, and members of my family with whom I shared the book enjoyed it as much as I did. More important, when I read the book to children in kindergarten through third grade, they all responded with enthusiasm and interest. I enjoyed this book every time I read it aloud. My students were excited from the moment they first saw the cover!

As I read, I invited my students to make comments or to ask questions. What follows are some of the things they said during shared readings.

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Kindergartners' Voices

First Graders' Voices

Second Graders' Voices

Third Graders' Voices

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Suggestions for Extension Activities

Artistic Response Activity: Ask children to think of how the story might be told from the perspective of one of the two dogs in the story. How might the mood of one of the dogs be expressed in color and details in a drawing or painting in Anthony Browne's style? What might the dog character learn about himself during the visit?

Writing Response Activity: Ask students to dictate or write about what the little boy or girl might do the next time they meet at the park. Ask students to include details about how the characters' friendship grows and how the scene at the park changes over time. What will happen in the future? Will the father get a job? Will the mother become less bossy?

Readers Theatre Activity: Allow children to write and read aloud a script that would mingle the four voices of the main characters. Students might take turns reading the first page of each vignette, then the second page, and so forth until the story is finished. Older children might enjoy thinking about how the separate voices intermingle to shed different perspectives on the same event.

Guided Discussion of the Illustrations: Invite children to share their opinions about what some of the pictures mean. Why is the tree burning and why are the leaves trailing behind mother and son as they leave the park? Why does a light fixture look like a flower when the little girl walks by? Why is there a fence in one picture and not the other? Why is the little girl portrayed in the light while the little boy is in shadows? What details in the illustrations do the children notice and why do they think they are significant?

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Reading Online, www.readingonline.org
Posted December 1998
© 1998-2000 International Reading Association, Inc. ISSN 1096-1232