Monday, October 22

13 Days of Halloween: Creepy Carrots

words by Aaron Reynolds 
pictures by Peter Brown  
Simon & Schuster 2012 

Jasper Rabbit loves carrots but they're starting to creep him out. Kids everywhere will cheer - they now have a real reason for hating carrots! They're creepy! But is there a deeper message here about the haves and the have-nots? 

Cute Little Jasper loves carrots, and how could he resist the temptation of Crackenhopper Field where they grow fat, crisp, and free? He can't. Then one day his little bunny ears twitch and he is sure he's being followed. Soon enough he is seeing creepy carrots everywhere he looks. The creepy carrots looking at him in the mirror? Those are orange-colored items on the edge of the bathtub. And in the closet? More orange carrot-shaped items.  

But after a week Jasper can't help but see those creepy carrots everywhere he looks. Finally Jasper hatches a plan and spends a Saturday enclosing Crackenhopper Field with a fence, surrounded by a moat full of alligators. There was no way any creepy carrot was ever going to escape and haunt Jasper again. 

And inside the fence the carrots rejoiced. Their plan had worked!  

It's easy to see this as Jasper's story – after all, he's the one being haunted at every turn – but the title of this (literally) dark picture book tells us who the story is really about. These poor, sentient carrots, passive in their existence, have had to deal with the horror of being yanked from the ground and consumed by a bunny with little concern than his own consumption. Is this a story of rabid consumerism? Perhaps, but then would that make the carrots the 99% who haunt in protest for their own rights to exist free of a predatory 1% who think nothing beyond the scope of their own desires.

Reading too much into a picture book again? Maybe the problem is we don't read deep enough.

As haunting as the carrots my be, they are merely creepy as an act of survival, and the ends justify the means as they find themselves in a gated community built on their behalf. That may seem workable for the moment, but how like the social welfare and housing programs of the past where well-intentioned governments (and some ill-intentioned ones as well) construct housing projects and artificial neighborhoods to protect the underclass.

Okay, okay, it's just a story about a rabbit haunted by carrots who are tired of watching kith and kin being eaten before their very carrot eyes. The illustrations in black, grey, and orange deliberately play off the Halloween theme of horror, a little trick-and-treat mixture of cute and creepy. The young'uns will eat it up, but not like carrots. More like candy corn I'd say.
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