078948191XIt’s likely that only writing teachers are looking for a book about voice, and I certainly don’t want to give the impression that Antony Browne’s Voices in the Park (DK Publishing, $8.99) is only of interest to writing instructors. However, the notion of voice and perspective is precisely what makes this book so interesting. Upon first reading, Voices in the Park, might be a bit perplexing. It contains four characters (Charlie and his mum, and Smudge and her dad), who take their dogs for a walk. Each character tells a short story about that afternoon in the park. Readers might feel like each story is a bit truncated; they might want to know more. They might be confused or even disappointed. That’s why you have to pay attention to all of the other ‘stuff’ that’s happening in Browne’s book. You have to start thinking about voices. What it means to have a voice. How voices can be different. And how an afternoon in the park can mean very different things to different people. It is the connections between the stories that make this book so interesting. It’s also the inconsistencies. Mum barely sees Smudge. Charlie doesn’t register Dad. Dad doesn’t notice anyone. Smudge sees each of them, including a very alarming version of Mum. No one character sees the whole picture and no story is right or wrong. This emphasis on perspective, in addition to voice, instructs readers to look harder. Those that do — the ones that move through this story slowly and carefully — will be rewarded with all kinds of visual entertainments. Pay close attention to the fonts. Look at the leaves and the trees. Think about the significance of that hat shape. Try to find as many references to children’s literature as possible (Mary Poppins and The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe are probably the most obvious). This picture book isn’t for young readers. I read this book with three groups of 5 year olds. All of them loved the whimsical illustrations, but only one of them actually understood what was going on. Instead, read Voices in the Park with kids ages 6 and up, even if they are already reading on their own. And be sure you make time to talk about it, because this book doesn’t just showcase voices, it will help your reader find theirs.

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