A PBOW feature

Creepy Carrots
Aaron Reynolds, author
Peter Brown, illustrator
Simon and Schuster Books for Young Readers, 2012
2013 Caldecott Honor Book

A great title for October and all the Halloween-inspired “creepy” books. Thankfully for this gal, this particular book is not your typical Halloween/creepy fair. (Don’t judge a book by its cover!) Children enjoy being slightly creeped out, and this book does just that. Winner of a Caldecott honor this past year, Creepy Carrots is indeed distinguished. If you haven’t checked it out yet, hopefully this post will convince you to do so!

Palette: With such a notable palette, we really must start here. It just jumps off the cover (and every page). Black and orange. Well, black, varying shades of gray, and varying shades of orange. We’re programmed (at least in America) to automatically associate that palette with creepy Halloween images. Even young children do this–after all, every store in America is sporting these colors in some fashion this month. But is this palette effective? Oh my, yes. Carrots are, after all, orange. So, that’s a given. The varying shades of orange add great extra dimension. And the grayscale elements simply make the orange elements pop all the more. This is essential for the success of these illustrations. We must notice those creepy carrots immediately. And, when we take a second look, we must immediately see what we thought were the creepy carrots (or, did the creepy carrots merely perform a quick switch?). The grayscale background feeds the film noire look nicely, don’t you think?

Cover, Endpapers/ Title Page: AAGGHH… Just look at that cover! We are suitably creeped out, reminded of film noire, and ready for a spooky adventure. Even the title letters are not stable (cue spooky background music). And just look at those perfect endpapers. The perceptive reader will note the differences between front and back… (now you have to go look!). Clever. And that title page jumps out at us. Somehow the arrangement of the letters with their accompanying shadows looks a teensy bit like a graveyard…. (cue more spooky music).

Composition/Layout: Note the sequential art on some spreads, the use of shadows, the close-ups of teeth chomping as well as the parallel scenes with creepy carrots and their non-creepy counterparts. These illustrations are well thought out. The details are consistent and work well to enhance the text. We call this seamlessness: note that the text and illustrations are incomplete without the other. The scene when Jasper’s brushing his teeth (oh, you have to see that page!), the text merely says, “That night, as he was brushing his teeth, there they were!” I love the scene when he gets home: the text says, “But when he arrived home that evening…” and the illustration shows him fleeing the shed with the carrots (seen through the window) dancing gleefully.

Plot: I love a plot with wiggle room, don’t you? We end the book and immediately want to go back and reread to see if our first assumptions were actually correct. Huh. How do those carrots do it?

Audience: I’m not sure what word to use for this category, but the “feel” or “mood” of this book is perfect for a preschool and kindergarten audience. Perfect. It’s just creepy enough without being over the top (after all, if the monsters are carrots, well, how much harm can they really cause?). And the end is just over the top enough to make it very silly and enable the audience to relax again into giggles.

All in all, a winner for sure. See more of the artistic process at the publisher’s website. If you need a good creepy story for this month–one that’s not too creepy–then check this one out. And it also works for a great story any other time of the year, too!

If you’ve read this book, what did you think? Like it? No? Why?

Next up: Moonshot: The Flight of Apollo 11 by Brian Floca. Moonshot is a slightly older title (2009) and should be in your local library.

Book from my local library; cover image from publisher’s website