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Anthony Browne talks about "Voices In The Park"

Anthony Browne, Author/Illustrator
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.

Iíve often wished that I could revisit the book. Iíve 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 elseís 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 womanís voice. She speaks to her dog with much more tenderness than to her son. I set this section in 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 doesnít 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 boyís world. At the beginning of this section Iíve 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 Ėvery bizarre things happen here.

Something wasnít 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 didnít want to do another gorilla book, it didnít 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 havenít worked out why it works, and in a way I donít want to, but it does show that quite often the best decisions I make have more to do with instinct than intellect.

Anthony Browne has written and illustrated more than twenty books for children. He has twice won the prestigious Kate Greenaway Medal. His previous books include Piggy Book, Zoo and King Kong, plus the enormously popular Willy books. He lives in England with his wife and two children.

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