Rose’s Jungle, by Barbara Rogenmoser, is a lively picture book perfectly pitched to preschoolers. It celebrates imaginative play and friendship across generations in simple, appropriately repetitive, though occasionally labored, rhyme. Jan Michael Vincent Sky’s illustrations are warm and bright.
The nameless heroine is a curious, happy preschooler. She loves nothing more than exploring her elderly friend Rose’s lush backyard and playing make-believe. To this imaginative little girl, the backyard is a dense jungle of fun and possibility. Do dragons and tigers live there? Are those monkeys hiding in the branches of a banana tree? Or is it only Thomas, the pretty orange cat welcoming our heroine for an afternoon play date?
In the backyard, the little girl discovers a tire to swing on, a bridge to cross and many goldfish to greet. She makes wishes by tossing pebbles into a stream. This beautiful, pretend jungle has everything a little girl needs to enjoy a glorious afternoon of adventure, exploration and freedom.
This story is told in simple rhyme. Now and then a beat is missed, confusing the meter and rhythm of the poetry (“Hooray! Hooray!/ I have LOVED this day/That I got to come to Rose’s jungle to play.”). The author’s inconsistent line breaks also work against the music of the text. And since the star of this picture book is the imaginary jungle, one wishes we could spend more time exploring its secrets and less time getting there.
But overall, this is a playful adventure that children will enjoy.