Picture books make effective related material for prescribed texts in the NSW Preliminary and HSC English courses. For the Standard Module A Elective of Distinctive Voices, it would be hard to go past Anthony Browne’s Voices in the Park. Originally published in by Doubleday in 1998, the book contains four different voices telling the story of a walk in the park. Each voice shares their perspective through a simple first person narrative, with language use revealing individual attitudes. The images assist the reader in constructing meaning through anthropomorphism: human like gorillas evoke a fantastical urban world.
Two adults and two children are represented through different typefaces, as shown in the image above. The voices are anonymous, yet some may be identified from information by other voices. For example, the Third Voice is identified as Charles by his mother and Charlie by his friend. The urban setting shows how we use the space around us and interact in a shared community.
When analysing a text as related material, remember to build up a word bank to describe each character and link these adjectives to a specific technique. Consider these ideas for First Voice:
- privileged position – opens book
- imperious – upright posture and stance
- wealthy – positioned outside a grand house, owns a well groomed dog called Victoria, wears jewelry
- educated – formal language, sentence structure and word choice ‘arrived’ ‘whatsoever’ ‘frightful types’
- judgmental – ‘rough-looking child’
- contrasts with stereotypical nurturing mother
Aim to craft two or three solid paragraphs that clearly explore particular similarities and differences with your prescribed text. Voices in the Park would work well with The Life and Crimes of Harry Lavender in terms of urban setting and challenging stereotypical gender roles. Consider how First Voice represents a controlled mother in contrast to Claudia Valentine’s absent mothering role.
It maybe helpful to choose a double page spread, or opening, to anlayse in detail. Try copying the pages and annotate features to assist in gathering evidence that will result in comprehensive sentences. Remember, technique + example + explanation should be the basis for each paragraph.
- worn down man sees the world pessimistically – resting head on hand and dull colours
- shadow behind chair reinforces negativity
- stooped posture when walking
- working clothes and syntax suggests limited education
- brief statement is self-focused
- ambiguous name ‘Smudge’ is actually that of his child
- setting of bare trees, high rise buildings, rubbish and rat indicates a neglected urban environment – contrast this depressing scene with the setting when Second Voice returns home
- hyperbole of ‘millions of kids’ on Santa’s sign reflects communal parenting role