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Voices in the Park

Page history last edited by lafayet1@msu.edu 9 years, 4 months ago

Plot Summary


     Voices in the Park is a very well written picture book for both children and young adults. Anthony Browne’s book was published in 1999 and has been a top seller since. The book allows us to see life through each of the characters in the story.

     This book belongs into the Contemporary Realistic Fiction genre. This genre is defined by a vivid, realistic setting; multidimensional, credible characters; and believable problems that are understood by the intended age group. Voices in the Park, satisfies these criteria. This is a plausible story that could happen in today’s world. An upper-class mother and son could walk their dog to the park and meet other people who may not be of the same socioeconomic status as they are. There are other parts of the story that qualify this text in this type of genre. This is a realistic occurrence that can happen daily, with easily understood problems for the reader. The characters in the story make it easy for children to relate to through use of language and how they interact with each other.

     Browne attempts to further a reader’s ability to relate to the characters by portraying them as gorillas. If the characters would have been depicted as human, readers might refuse to relate to the characters due to preconceived bias about race, socioeconomic class and/or the sex of the characters. Reading with such prejudice could certainly limit a reader’s ability and/or willingness to make personal connections to the experiences of characters. When a reader is able to visualize the characters as animals, which lack certain human elements of socioeconomic status and gender roles, they will be more likely able to relate to them.

     The animal depictions also force readers to focus on other artistic elements that imply socioeconomic status and gender roles. The depiction of the mother character implies wealth, and stereotypical attitudes of wealthy women. The depiction of the father character implies poverty, and stereotypical (or perhaps not-so stereotypical) attitudes of poor men. The children seem to transcend gender stereotypes, as the boy takes on more of a female gender role. He is reluctant to play with the girl, and less outgoing. The girl wants to play with the boy, and is much more outgoing. She seems to convince the boy to play, which is not very characteristic of girls in most stories.


Textual Elements 


The text itself reads as four separate stories, each with its own voice. At the end he blends the voices to create one semi- ambiguous ending, letting the reader fill in the holes. The art does the same thing, relying on the reader to come up with the actual relevance.

    Points of View

      Each voice is told from the point of view of the characters throughout the story. By isolating each of these points of view, Browne allow the reader to see how each character perceives one another and what actually happened to each character in these missing pieces of the story. The first point of view that is shared is from the perspective of Charles' mother. Upon seeing the Smudge's father, she describes in the text as a frightful type. She calls Smudge's dog, Albert as a mongrel and even referred to Smudge as a, "very rough looking child" (Browne 6). Through her point of view, it clearly tells us that she looks down at these three because they look different than her. Possibly Charles' mother sees them of a lower socioeconomic class because the way that they are dressed or groomed. This is shown textually by negative words and attitude. From the second point of view told in the story, Smudge's father makes no mention of the other characters other than the fact that his daughter cheered him up and how he wishes he had half of the energy that the dog had. He is in his own little world throughout his turn in telling the story because he is focused on finding a job. From Charles' point of view, he viewed things differently than his mother. He saw Albert as a friendly dog. He did not notice Smudge's father, so there was no mention the character. His perception of Smudge was that although she was a girl, she was good at going down the slide and swinging on the monkey bars. In the text, you notice he was enjoying his time with her with the different types of adjectives he was using such as funny, amazed, great. He even asked at the end of his narrative that maybe Smudge would be there next time when he goes to the park. For Smudge, her point of view shown that she realized that her dad was fed up with the way things were going in his life. Hence, she suggested they go to the park. When they got there, she regarded Victoria, Charles' dog, as a nice dog. Her interaction with Charles' mom made her comment as to how she was, "a silly twit." Smudge even describes, Charlie, the informal version of Charles', as being a wimpy kid had turned into a friendly one. Smudge even mentions the good time that they had together and how she even noticed that he was sad when his mother found him playing with her. Out of all four of the characters, Smudge pays more attention to the emotions of all those around her. Charles undergoes a transformation from the beginning of his voice as depressed and sad then becomes happy throughout his story, then becomes sad at the end when he goes back with his mother. Smudge's father is stuck in his own world, looking for a job, trying to keep hope going. Charles' mother seems to be more concerned about herself and the dog, rather than her own son. By understanding the character's points of view, a reader can understand more about the characters and the dynamics that surround them in a story.


Text/Font Choices

     As part of the textual elements, it is important to notice the different types of font styles to reflect the different voices of each character. To represent Charles' moter, Brownw used a font like Times New Roman. Out of all of the fonts, this one makes the letters look tall, adding tails on to the top and the bottom of the letters. It was a very formal font. This is done intentionally to reflect the "proper" type of font, and suggests cultural refinement.

     For Smudge's father, the type is a less formal type of font that is bolded. There is just more of a noticble rounding of the letters, not as rigid as the ones for the font listed above. The informal bold text, along with the type of grammar of the sentences, leads one to conclude he is a working class person. The fact of it being in bold makes one envision he has a deep, rough voice.

     The font used when it is Charles turn, his font is barely visible due to it being very thin. It can be seen as a week, small voice, and seems to suggest fear (of the mother authority figure). Thinking in compairson o the font of his mother's voice, there are the same type of font characteristics with the tails on the letters.

     The fourth character, Smudge's font is a more fun type of font that would resemble the voice of a playful child. Just like her father's font, hers is also portrayed in bold. Rather than it giving her a deeper voice, it looks more hearty and playful. Browne had carefully chosen these fonts to portray an attitude to give the reader a glimpse into the four voices of the characters in the story.Looked at as an artistic element, the textual font is composed of lines that suggest the strength of each character’s personality, the mood of each character, and the mood they suggest to other characters.


Artistic Elements 

Style of Art

     Throughout, Voices in the Park, there are different types of art used in the book. Here is a list of a couple of those styles and how the book's illustrations relate to them. Each style can be used in an illustration with another style too.


  • Impressionistic Art- This style is used in a couple of the illustrations to represent a passage of time. Throughout this story, there is a theme that each of the character's voices takes on a different season that is used throughout the year. For instance in the mother's voice, the impressionistic art used in the illustration is showing the trees changing colors of the leaves, representing fall. That is shown by the small bits of colors: brown, yellow, orange, and red, among many others. These dabs of color are used to mimic the way that the eye perceives color and merges color to create the images we see. On page 18, there is an illustration of the dogs, Victoria and Albert, playing. The trees behind them use spring like colors: pinks, reds, greens, whites, and blues to represent the blooming of the flowers on the trees. The same colors are used two pages later when Smudge and Charles are climbing up in the tree. In stark contrast, as Charles is being led away from playing with Smudge, everything turns from spring time to a more pre-winter atmosphere. Many of the trees have lost their leaves, the branches are sagging and the colors of the bushes turn into using a lot of dark colors such as: dark green, green, black, brown and a mix thereof.


  • Surrealistic Art- Surrealism style uses visual imagery from the subconscious mind to create art without the intention of logical comprehensibility (Surrealism.org). This type of art style is used in Smudge's illustrations, as well as her father's. Her perception of the world around her contains startling images of fruit shaped trees, multicolored light posts, gorilla statues with swimming trunks on, and trees in the shape of gorilla heads. In the second picture into her point of view, there is a picture showing Charles' mother looking down angrily at her. Her red hat is popping off of her head and is suspended in mid-air with lines shooting out of the sides of the hat. At the same time this is happening, the flowers that were on her scarf are literally standing up off of the scarf. This image perfectly fits this type of art because it is a convention of mockery toward the mother and is a perception of Smudge's mind. Another example of this type of art is when the father lets Albert off the leash and the dog runs, chasing Victoria into the woods. Now, thinking about where the father's mind is now, he is depressed, sad about not having a job. This is represented in the color of the illustration with the two dogs. The woods turns into this dark colored place with greens, blues and black. This is not actually the color of the woods as is, however it reflects the father's perception of it. Browne uses this style in other books he has done. To see some examples, click here.


Placement on Page of Illustration

     For the mother, the illustrations are surrounded by clear straight edges and corners for the border. In Smudge's father illustrations; it starts out with him sitting on the couch, showing three-dimensionality when including the shadow behind him. The next page is a full bleed illustration that has no borders, only for the end of the page catching your attention and adding visual information to the text. The third page into his voice, it shows him taking the leash off an excited Albert. In this illustration, the head of the dog is outside of the border of that page. This could mean that the dog is not held to the distinct boundaries there are in society. Throughout his voice, there are no distinctly drawn borders. Charles' illustrations vary from being bordered then progressing to free style dimensionality and then into full page bleeds. The lined borders are placed around the scenes where he is either in close proximity or restricted by his mother's ideals. His perception of the world is bound to how and what his mother teaches him to see. When he meets Smudge, his placement of the illustration changes. He is shown in a free standing picture of him and her playing together on the monkey bars. Then the picture changes to a wavy border without lines restricting him. It then evolves into a full page bleed as he is headed back to home with his mother and Victoria. In Smudge's illustrations, the pictures are either placed in the middle of the page without borders or are of a full page bleed. The only border she has around her pictures is on the last page where the illustration is bordered with a yellow border.

Line, Shape, Texture, Color and Design

     Throughout the illustrations in this book, the illustrator used lines in ways to represent action and emotion, such as the case of Smudge's perception of Charles' mother. However, another way Browne used the concept of the line was to explain divisions in relationships and class distinctions. The first picture in Charles' voice shows the dog and him are separated by the division of the rooms. By showing the dog, most commonly believed to be man's best friend, off in another room, distant to the boy, shows a division in their relationship. There is also a picture of Charles and his mother sitting on a park bench within the first voice's illustrations. Both of them are separated by an invisible line that is drawn between them and are facing opposite directions. This resembles the division in their relationship also.

     What are more interesting to note is the implications of the division of class in these illustrations. In the illustrations for the first voice, there is one frame where it shows Smudge's father in worn clothes, reading a newspaper while sitting on a park bench. Behind him is a dog waste disposal and garbage littered on the ground. Then, there is a lamppost that divides the frame between him and Charles’ mother. She is standing there, dressed in more expensive and fancier clothes with all of her jewelry on. Notice behind her, there is no garbage at all. The grass all around her is nice and clean. This illustration shows the social class divide, comparing the surroundings of someone that is of lower class and upper-class drawn together in a public park. That lamppost serves as a device to show a comparison between the two next to each other. The line of the lamppost works again in showing the divide between the perceptions of the world from the point of view of Charles and Smudge in an illustration placed in the third voice. By placing the line between characters resemble some type of separations in this book whether it is in relation to relationships or social class status.


Analysis and Critique

     This is a well written book because it depicts economic status and race in a way in which it can be discussed by anyone. The story starts out with the mother’s point of view and ends with the little girls. I believe that the author began with the mother because in society the rich is first and the poor is last. This would be a good representation of classification and how money can determine your order in life. When the father starts to talk as he walks through the park there are signs of gloom and unhappiness. The Mona Lisa portrait is crying showing the sorrow of the family, there is trash everywhere to illustrate how no one cares, and there is also a man begging for spare change which is something most seen in areas of lower economic stature. However when he is walking home from the park the homeless man is up dancing and the pictures come to life illustrating the happiness that his daughter had brought him. I believe that Browne is trying to send the message that money does not bring happiness. Though the father and daughter were not as well off as the mother and son they still were able to be joyful. I appreciate the fact that Browne used gorillas in the story so that race would not be obvious, however the gorilla’s shade of color is different; the older gorillas are darker than the younger ones, and even though the lower class father face is dark like the upper class mothers, his hands and arms appear to be that of a Caucasian man. This is a great story because it is one that can be used in not just an English class but in all subjects of learning. I like the fact that Browne is not sending just one certain message to young readers, but everyone can relate to this book in some form, because with each voice in the book comes a different personality. This is truly a remarkable book for its many elements of literature




Browne, Anthony. Voices in the Park. New York, New York: DK Publishing Inc., 1998.

Children's books reviewed by parents for you and your kids. 17 Aug. 2003. 1 Children Books Malaysia. 17

Aug. 2010 <http://www.1childrenbooks.com/ store/​html/​pages/​images/​pack30/​ voices_inside.jpg>.

Fruit Shaped Trees. 10 June 2009. 17 Aug. 2010 <http://static.guim.co.uk/ sys-images/​arts/​arts_/​pictures/​2009/


Impressionism. 23 July 2010. Wikipedia. 17 Aug. 2010 <http://en.wikipedia.org/ wiki/​impressionism>. 

Mona Lisa. 10 Aug. 2010. Wikipedia. 17 Aug. 2010 <http://en.wikipedia.org/ wiki/​mona_lisa>. 

Picture book. 18 July 2010. Wikipedia. 17 Aug. 2010 <http://en.wikipedia.org/ wiki/​picture_book>. 

Surrealism. 17 Aug. 2009. Surrealism.org. 17 Aug. 2010 <http://www.surrealism.org/>.



 Anthony Browne (author). 28 July 2010. Wikipedia. 17 Aug. 2010


Browne, Anthony. Voices in the Park. New York, New York: DK Publishing Inc., 1998.

Children's books reviewed by parents for you and your kids. 17 Aug. 2003. 1 Children Books Malaysia. 17 Aug.

2010 <http://www.1childrenbooks.com/ store/​html/​pages/​images/​pack30/​ voices_inside.jpg>.

Fruit Shaped Trees. 10 June 2009. 17 Aug. 2010 <http://static.guim.co.uk/ sys-images/​arts/​arts_/​pictures/​2009/


Impressionism. 23 July 2010. Wikipedia. 17 Aug. 2010 <http://en.wikipedia.org/ wiki/​impressionism>. 

Mona Lisa. 10 Aug. 2010. Wikipedia. 17 Aug. 2010 <http://en.wikipedia.org/ wiki/​mona_lisa>. 

Picture book. 18 July 2010. Wikipedia. 17 Aug. 2010 <http://en.wikipedia.org/ wiki/​picture_book>. 

Surrealism. 17 Aug. 2009. Surrealism.org. 17 Aug. 2010 <http://www.surrealism.org/>. 

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