Title: Voices in the Park
Author: Anthony Browne
Illustrator: Anthony Browne
Publisher: DK Publishing, Inc., 2001
Audience: Ages 7 – 11
Summary: A well dressed woman, her sad, docile son, Charles, and their pedigreed dog, Victoria enter a city park. . An unemployed father, his cheerful daughter, Smudge, and their mongrel, Albert, come to the park also. Each person (think anthropomorphic chimp) sees the others from his or her own viewpoint: a frightening man, a silly twit, a wimpy boy, a rough-looking child. The dogs, expressing one voice, accept each other at once and play with obvious joy and abandon.. Smudge invites Charles to slide and their viewpoints began to change, a tentative relationship is established. Then everyone goes home with a small bit of hope in the air. The park expresses another viewpoint in this simple story. It’s a marvel of commentary as trees and sky change to match voices and events. The mother’s red hat is also a domineering presence. It takes several readings to appreciate the complexity of this story, the richness of the illustrations, and the author’s subtle humor.
Literary elements at work in the story: Narrator viewpoint is a significant literary device. One voice in this story speaks of control, fear, suspicion; one voice speaks of boredom, sadness; another of discouragement; another of optimism and happiness. Each interior monologue has its own style of print.
How does the perspective on gender/race/culture/economics/ability make a difference to the story? The four persons in this story all pre-judge others. Charles has masculine prejudices; Charles’ mother has class prejudices; Smudge thinks Charles is a wimp; Smudge’s father is too discouraged to notice anyone. These perspectives affect how Smudge and Charles first react to each other and color the mother’s voice throughout.
Theological Conversation Partners: “Love your neighbor as yourself” calls for understanding, for community. “Judge not” requires the ability to see another’s needs and problems. Jesus could see a hated tax collector and recognize an apostle, a young man bound by his riches and love him. Romans 12 is filled with guidance about seeing ourselves and others through the transforming power of God.
The ability to understand and appreciate our neighbors is a gift of grace, essential foInr living as disciples of Christ.
Faith Talk Questions:
- In what sense are the mother and son and father and daughter neighbors?
- How does the mother’s viewpoint keep her from seeing Smudge’s father and Smudge?
- How does Charles’ viewpoint keep him from seeing Smudge?
- What makes the change in Charles’ viewpoint?
- Who doesn’t change in the story? Why?
- How many times does the red hat appear in the story? What do you think it represents?
- What signs of hope do you see at the end of the story?
- Are there persons you know or just see about whom you form opinions?
- How can we become more generous and loving in the way that we see others?
Review prepared by guest blogger Virginia Thomas
Voices in the Park by Storypath is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.