What happens if you take more, much more than what you need? Jasper Rabbit loves carrots and he eats them all the time – on the way home, and more. Then one day, Jasper starts to notice someone or something following him. Are carrots seeking revenge for his glutinous appetite? How will it all end? Creepy Carrots, a 2013 Caldecott Honor Book, tells the story of Jasper Rabbit and follows him through his gluttony and eventual paranoia and fear. Illustrator Peter Brown creates a nostalgic, yet creepy atmosphere with his use of color and shadow. Reynolds offers the reader a story that creates suspense. Together, Brown and Reynolds merge their abilities together to spook young readers, while subtly offering a lesson in moderation.
EVALUATION OF BOOK
In Creepy Carrots!, and in the subsequent book to the series, Creepy Pair of Underwear!, illustrator Peter Brown uses shades of gray to evoke a spooky mood. The reader is experiencing a black and white book, with the carrots themselves, that pop with life in bright orange. This decision to make an essentially book in black and white evokes television from the time before it was in color. Lukehart (2012) points out that, “Brown’s panels…combine the mood of film noir with the lowtech look of early children’s television staging for an aesthetic that is atmospheric, but not overwhelming (p. 62). This use of gray functions seamlessly with Reynolds writing since it matches the spooky story. The most entertaining parts of Brown’s illustrations are when Jasper begins to see the carrots harassing him, only to find that they are inanimate objects. This sense of suspense and foreboding is an elemental technique in horror, yet with Brown’s illustrations, it is spooky, yet appropriately so for children.
Reynolds writes using rich, yet age appropriate text, with such constructions such as, “The carrots in Crackenhopper field were the best. Fat. Crisp.” At times, the text of this book has a predictable pattern to it, which is important and helpful for young readers. When Jasper is fraught with fear, his father helps him investigate different parts of the house. After his father checks Jasper’s room, his father turns on the light, checks under the bed and says, ” ‘No creepy carrots. They looked through the closet. No creepy carrots. They opened the dresser drawers. No creepy carrots” (Reynolds & Brown, 2012, pp. ). While Creepy Carrots! is not exclusively a pattern book, instances of pattern like this are important for the young reader. Even these instances can “often can be their bridge into the world of independent reading” (Young, Bryan, Jacobs & Tunnell, 2020, p. 105). This is important because this book is a book that readers may find themselves engaged in and happy to read. Finding success in reading, through well written books like this and enjoying what one reads are exactly what we want young readers to experience.
Both Reynolds and Brown come together to create this spooky book with a type of moral. The reader sees how greedy Jasper Rabbit is. Not only does he take carrots, he takes carrots every time he passes by the field, whether going to a place or coming from a place. At one point, the reader sees that he has taken nearly all the carrots from the field, as shown by the empty holes in the earth (See Image 2).
It is clear that there is a message about greed and taking more than you need. Jasper does not need all the carrots he takes, but he takes them anyway. As the reader sees the fear and terror that Jasper goes through, they see that not even his father can help put his mind at ease. The only thing that brings Jasper peace is when he decides to build a fence to keep the carrots out. In the end, however, unbeknownst to Jasper, the carrots celebrate their scheme all along – to keep Jasper out of the carrot patch. This marriage of greed and horror is common and can help young readers understand how to can be used. In fact, later in life, readers may re-discover this trope in works such as A Christmas Carol.
Creepy Carrots is a spooky tale with what might be considered a happy ending. Brown sets the tone of this piece as one might a 1950s horror movie – black and white. His use of color, reserved only for the carrots, heighten the tension and suspense. Reynolds creates a setting in Crackenhopper Field, where Jasper Rabbit takes all the carrots he needs, and wants. In this way, it is a type of cautionary tale for taking more than you need. In addition, Reynolds writes in an easy to understand way and also uses patterns which is of extraordinary importance for emerging readers. This book is recommended for libraries, public and school, that serve young readers.
Lukehart, W. (2012). Creepy Carrots! School Library Journal, 58(7), 62–63.
Reynolds, A. & Brown, P. (2012). Creepy carrots! Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers.
Young, T.A., Bryan, G., Jacobs, J.S., Tunnell, M. O. (2020). Children’s literature, briefly. Pearson Education, Inc.