I know it is still September but October is only two days away and my students have been asking for Halloween activities for about three weeks now. So this week I introduced a story with hints of Halloween, (and it shouldn’t offend those who don’t celebrate the holiday), Creepy Carrots! by Aaron Reynolds, illustrated by Peter Brown. My students loved this book and I must admit I loved reading it to them on Monday - I still loved reading it when they wanted to hear it again on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday. By Friday, I’d convinced the kids to start writing their own creepy vegetable stories and I heard some fabulous tales.
Creepy Carrots! is about a young rabbit who loves carrots, especially those found in Crackenhopper Field. He couldn’t get enough of them . . . until the carrots started following him (at least he thinks they are following him).
“Jasper was about to help himself to a victory snack . . . when he heard it. The soft . . . sinister . . . tunktunktunk of carrots creeping. He turned . . . but there was nothing there.”
You can’t be sure, until the end of the book, if Jasper has an over-active imagination or if the carrots have actually uprooted and are trailing him. Poor Jasper sees fleeting images of carrots with jack-o-lantern faces peering out of windows, peeking around the shower curtain, popping up from a gutter – they’re everywhere. Always, when he turns, he sees something orange – an old soda bottle, a curtain, a washcloth – but no carrots. Lest you think this story is too frightening for young children, I must tell you, my first and second grade students found the idea of carrots tunktunktunking behind a rabbit hilarious and the carrots are depicted with a perfect combination of humor and creepiness. The dark illustrations – black, white and gray with a splash of orange – add to the creepiness. When I read this book aloud, the kids’ eyes widened, their shoulders went up, and they held their breath a couple of times, but their mouths twitched upward into smiles.
By the end of the week, my students were writing their own creepy stories, and that created a great vocabulary building opportunity. We talked about categories (fruits and vegetables), adjectives, (synonyms for creepy) and we came up with a few interesting alliterative titles like: Spooky Spinach, Bizarre Broccoli, Gruesome Green Beans, Ghastly Gourds, Terrifying Turnips, and Monstrous Mushrooms. Two of my students wanted to include fruit and so we added Weird Watermelons and Appalling Apples.
The students didn’t have time to finish their creepy fruit and vegetable tales but they are off to a good start and they are saving their work for next week when October finally arrives. I foresee some great stories in the weeks ahead and when Halloween comes, I wouldn’t be at all surprised if I have a few creepy carrots knocking at my door.