Reviews provided by Syndetics
Publishers Weekly Review
Browne again proves himself an artist of inventive voice and vision as he creates perhaps his most psychologically complex work to date via a commonplace experienceÄa brief sojourn to a city park. The author of King Kong and the Willy stories again features anthropomorphic chimps, who provide four unique perspectives: an uppity, overbearing mother and her glum son, Charles; and an unemployed fellow and his cheerful daughter, Smudge. What transpires factually is simple: the two children play together, their dogs do the same, the adults keep to themselves. Yet Browne reinvents and overlays the scene as each parent and child in turn describes their version of the events, altering light, colors and words. Browne sets up the tension by starting off with Charles's stylishly dressed mother, who lets her "pedigree Labrador," Victoria, off the leash and then scoffs at "some scruffy mongrel"(Smudge's dog). The matriarch similarly describes Charles's newfound friend as "a very rough-looking child." Through Charles's eyes, readers watch the tops of lampposts, gray clouds and a leafless tree take on the shape of his mother's large chapeau, as her hat-dominated figure casts a shadow over the boy. In the succeeding page, Browne cleverly frames a shift in Charles's mood with an illustration divided by a lamppost: threatening clouds and bare trees give way to blue skies and blossoming branches when a smiling, pigtailed (anything but rough-looking) Smudge on the sunny side of the park bench invites Charles to play on the slide. Browne offers readers much to pore over. His images reflect the human psyche; some are eerie (Edvard Munch's "The Scream" appears in the want ads; a burning tree provides the backdrop for mother and son's silent exit from the park), others uplifting. For example, the subjects of two portraits leaning on the park wall, a gloomy Rembrandt self-portrait and a weeping Mona Lisa, transform into a dancing couple under a street lamp fashioned from a flower, as the jobless man departs the park, cheered by his daughter. Although some discomfiting tonesÄin both pictures and textÄ appear in the vignettes, Browne also celebrates the redeeming power of connecting with another human being. His creativity invites youngsters to tap into their own, as they look for clues between the trees and add their own spins to Browne's four interconnected tales. Ages 7-11. (Sept.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
School Library Journal Review
K-Gr 5-A mother takes her son and their dog to the park, where she thinks about dinner and turns up her nose at the "frightful types." Meanwhile, an unemployed father sits on the same bench and searches the want ads while admiring his daughter's chatter and their dog's energy. The two kids, of course, find one another. In four short first-person narratives, each of the characters recounts the same outing from a different perspective and at a different emotional level. The mother is annoyed. The father is melancholy. The boy is bored and lonely, then hopeful. The girl is independent and outgoing, yet observant. The real "voices," however, are not found in the quiet, straightforward text, but in Browne's vibrant, super-realistic paintings in which trees are oddly shaped, footsteps turn to flower petals, Santa Claus begs for change, and people happen to be primates. Some of the illustrations appear in smaller squares while others are full bleeds so that even the margins become part of the narrative. Browne's fans should find this even more satisfying than Willy the Dreamer (Candlewick, 1998). Because readers will want to compare pages (did that building turn into a castle?) and tarry over every detail, this book is best suited to independent reading. Even prereaders will be intrigued by the way a simple visit to the park can literally be "seen" in so many different ways.-Nina Lindsay, Oakland Public Library, CA (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
Ages 4^-9. Four voices in four seasons in a city park, each one is an ape 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, Smudge, in the summer. Each in turn tells of a brief encounter with the others when they meet in the park with their dogs. Each one sees the place and the others differently; even the type font for each section is different, yet together the voices tell a story. As always, Browne's paintings extend the narrative with almost surreal details that could almost be true. In fall, the boy is overwhelmed by his domineering mom and sits obediently on the bench, except for a few snatched moments when he meets with Smudge in the distance; as his mom drags him away, an autumn tree is in flames like a lamp. In summer, he and Smudge play together and laugh in the light. There is no neat ending--the boy must return to his sad home--but everyone will recognize how a brief encounter with a stranger can give you a glimpse of possibilities. Kids who look closely will discover intense and playful details: a cross-hatched picture shows the boy shut in at home; in the park a classical statue scratches her neck and dangles her sunglasses. --Hazel Rochman
Horn Book Review
(Preschool) The play between perception and reality, whether literal or emotional, is Anthony Browne's most constant theme. Here, using four points of view, he explicitly contrasts the meaning of a particular event to its four participants. What happens is simple: a stuffy gorilla mother takes her son Charles and ""pedigree Labrador,"" Victoria, to the park, where Victoria plays with a mutt belonging to another gorilla, who's hopelessly searching a newspaper for a job, and where Charles makes friends with his daughter Smudge. To the mother (whose voice is set in a traditional typeface), it's two unsavory encounters that she successfully nips in the bud. The father (a bold sans serif), bravely trying to ward off despair, focuses on the pleasure of his child and dog. Charles (a spindly, spineless typeface) describes playing with Smudge as respite from an over-protected existence. But it's Smudge (freely rendered hand-lettering) who comes closest to the truth: Charles's mother ""was really angry, the silly twit,"" and ""I thought [the boy] was kind of a wimp at first, but he's okay."" Browne's expressive and elegantly structured paintings are full of his usual surreal asides: a different season for each retelling (beginning with an autumn when trees yawn and one bursts into flame in the background); the repetition of the shape of the mother's hat atop lampposts and pillars, as topiary and clouds; playful paintings and statuary; and many others. The social message is the more powerful for being implicit. Another handsome and provocative book from a master. joanna rudge long (c) Copyright 2010. The Horn Book, Inc., a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
Kirkus Book Review
Browne's exceptional out-of-time storyabout a visit to the neighborhood park by his familiar gorillasis told from four perspectives. The first voice is that of a prim, supercilious mother, who has taken her son and pedigreed dog to the park for some air. She sees danger lurking in her charges' dealings with the great unwashed: her dog with a mongrel, her son with a ragamuffin. The second voice is careworn, but ultimately cheered by the visit; a jobless father takes his mutt and his daughter to the park for a break from his worries. Voice three is the first lady's sonhesitant and hemmed inwho finds a moment of liberation when playing with the jobless father's daughter. And lastly is that of the girl herself, a happy-go-lucky fixer-upper for all those who step into her radiance. This quartet of interpolating impressions has a cinematic quality, where real objects and their shadows often take separate paths. Browne's artwork is deft and kaleidoscopic, with sidelong imagery and a nod to René Magritte that heighten the surreal aspects of the story. (Picture book. 5-11)