Synopses & Reviews
I called his nameÖI settled on a benchÖI was amazedÖI felt really, really happyÖFour people enter a park, and through their eyes we see four different visions. There's the bossy woman, the sad man, the lonely boy and the young girl whose warmth touches those she meets. As the story moves from one voice to another, their perspectives are reflected in the shifting landscape and seasons. This is an intriguing, many-layered, enormously entertaining book that demands to be read again and again.
The four seasons in a city park are represented by apes in human clothing: a rich, uptight woman in the fall; a sad, unemployed man in the winter; the woman's lonely boy in the spring; the man's joyful daughter in the summer. Each one sees the place and the others differently, yet together the voices tell a story. Full-color illustrations.
About the Author
Anthony Browne traces his interest in art back to his father, a former pub owner and frustrated artist. He attended Leeds College of Art and graduated with a degree in graphic design. Before turning his attention to children's books, he worked as a medical artist, a teacher, and a greeting card designer. Anthony Browne has illustrated more than twenty books for children, including PiggyBook, Zoo, and King Kong, plus five books featuring the enormously popular chimp, Willy. His books have won many awards, including The New York Times Book Review Best Illustrated Children's Book Award, the Kurt Maschler Award, and the Kate Greenaway Medal. In 1998, Anthony Browne was nominated for the prestigious international Hans Christian Andersen Award. He lives in the south of England with his wife and two children. Self-portrait: A Walk in the Park was the second book I published, twenty years ago, and while I have always liked the story, I felt that the illustrations look rushed and clumsy. I've often wished that I could revisit the book. I've also wanted for some time to write a book from the point of view of different characters in a story. I like the idea of showing that the world looks very different from inside someone else's head. At some stage I must have brought these two ideas together, and out of them came Voices in the Park. The original, A Walk in the Park, is a very simple story of Mrs. Smythe and her son, Charles, who take their dog, Victoria, to the park. At the same time, Mr. Smith and his daughter, Smudge, take their dog, Albert, to the park. The dogs immediately play together and weave their way through the pages of the book. Mrs. Smythe and Charles sit at one end of a bench, Mr. Smith and Smudge sit at the other end, all ignoring one another. As they see the dogs playing happily together, Charles and Smudge gradually edge toward each other and slowly start to play. They take off their coats and finally dance on the bandstand along with the dogs. Charles picks a flower and gives it to Smudge, and at that moment they are abruptly separated by their parents and taken home. I divided the new book into four parts, starting with the woman's voice. She speaks to her dog with much more tenderness than to her son. I set this section I the autumn; as they walk home in silence, a trail of leaves is left in their wake. The second voice is that of the man, and this section is shown in winter. He also is so wrapped up in his own problems that he doesn't really notice what his child is doing. On their way home they pass the same dreary place and figures we had seen earlier, but this time his daughter is chatting merrily to him and lighting up the scene. In the background we see some early signs of spring. For the third voice we hear and see the boy's world. At the beginning of this section I've used a tight, crosshatched style. Gradually we see spring develop as he meets the girl; the pen line disappears, and the colors become warmer and brighter. Finally we hear from the girl, and now it seems to be perpetually summer. Her world is bright and lively and imaginative-very bizarre things happen here. Something wasn't quite right, however. One day I found myself painting over one of the faces, and it turned into a gorilla. I had a mixture of feelings-I didn't want to do another gorilla book, it didn't seem necessary or relevant to the story to make them gorillas. But it worked. I changed the other characters and it worked for them, too. In a peculiar kind of way it made them more real, more human. And it made the whole book funnier. I still haven't worked out why it works, and in a way I don't want to, but it does show that quite often the best decisions I make have more to do with instinct than intellect.