Interactive Publications. Australian, Picture Book. Hardcover rrp $26.95
Guest Reviewer - Anastasia Gonis
The setting for this beautifully illustrated book is the Hanging Gardens of Babylon that overlook the Euphrates River, created by King Nebuchadnezzar for his new bride, Queen Amyritis, to alleviate any longing for her homeland, Persia. This delicate story on the birth of beauty is illustrated in both soft and vibrant watercolour, with pages and cover framed in attractive borders.
Zahara’s father, a gifted gardener, has been trying to grow a special rose from a scrappy cutting; a plant that he’d brought home with him from his travels. But with all his nurturing, the result is a single tight bud on a scraggly stem. He refuses to give up on it and hopes to propagate the plant and grow many more. Grandmother has her doubts.
The Queen has requested to see their renowned plants and herbs. The family set out on their ox cart with the scraggly plant amongst their collection towards the Ishtar Gates, named after the Goddess of Love and War, and to the most beautiful gardens in the world that hang in the sky.
The guard initially does not allow Zahara to go past the first terrace because of her walking stick which he fears will prod and poke the fragile ground that breathes life into the delicate flowers. But Grandmother creeps back disguised, and brings the girl into the garden while her mother talks to the Queen on another terrace. Zahara is fascinated by the waterfalls, ponds, and exotic flowers growing in the moist atmosphere. Grandmother has hidden the weak-looking flower amongst the other plants, ashamed to show it to the Queen.
But to her amazement, within the perfect environment for growth, the blood red bud opens to release a beguiling fragrance. They set out in haste to present it to the Queen.
Queen Amyritis, bewitched by the fragrance and beauty of the rose, invites Zahara to be her Official Petal Counter. But to distance herself from her family is unthinkable to Zahara. She settles on a promise to help grow more of the roses, now known as the Flower of Heaven.