If you are at all familiar with that classic nursery rhyme, "The House That Jack Built", then you will find Arnold and Anita Lobel's beautiful, "The Rose In My Garden" to be a fine floral form of that already existing style. Using repetitive lines and pictures that, to my mind, are the finest Anita Lobel illustrations existing to date, the book is a perfect accompaniment to any leisurely summer storytime.
Our very first image is of a beautiful red rose in the corner of a page. Says the text, "This is the rose in my garden". Next we see a bee that sleeps in the rose in the garden. Then we view the hollyhocks that give shade to the bee that sleeps on the rose in the garden. From there we are privy to marigolds that stand by the hollyhocks that shade the bee asleep on the rose in the garden. And so on. A variety of different flowers appear and for a second it looks as if this book is no more than a mildly interesting catalogue of flora and fauna. That is, until we meet a small mouse, "quaking in fear". Before you know it a cat has burst through the flowers, wreaking such havoc as pushing the peonies and startling the lilies. All looks lost for the mouse... until the cat wakes the bee asleep in the rose. The final two page image includes a black and white penned shot of an unhappy cat with a bandage on its nose and a parting shot of, once more, the rose in the garden.
The book has a kind of lazy languid attitude to it that works beautifully with the illustrations. Methinks this would read best to those kids that are already in a sleepy state of mind. Aside from the raucous appearance of the cat and mouse chase sequence, very little occurs in this story. Parents who don't know the difference between a peony and a zinnia may take more out of this story than their kids. On the other hand, it's just gosh darn lovely to look at. Ms. Lobel usually draws in an odd cartoony style (ala her somewhat bizarre, "A Treeful of Pigs"), but the only slightly silly shots in this book are of the cat and mouse. Kids who identify with the cat won't appreciate the bee's sudden sting to its nose, but it's not exactly harrowing. They'll deal.
Of the Anita and Arnold Lobel collaborations out there, this one is probably the quietest. I've a special place in my heart for their remarkable, "On Market Street" (their best work) but this book is also worth taking a gander too. Consider it recommended for those children that are patient enough to wade through long descriptive passages to get to the excitement at the book's end.