Written by Jan Peck, Illustrated by Barry Root
Dial Books for Young Readers, 1998
One warm spring day tall Papa Joe said, “I will plant a carrot seed. And come summer, when it’s grown, I’ll drink a tall glass of carrot juice.”
The plot in a nutshell: A family works together to grow a massive carrot
Papa Joe digs a hole in the ground, Mama Bess drops a seed in the hole, Brother Abel waters the seed and Sweet Little Isabelle sings and dances to make the carrot grow. Each one of them wants something different from the carrot – carrot juice, carrot stew, carrot relish and carrot pudding. Everyone continues to tend to the carrot and it grows, seeming to grow especially large whenever Isabelle sings and dances. When the carrot seems exceedingly large, the adults try to pull it out of the ground, anxious for their carrot treat, but it’s stuck firmly in the ground and refuses to budge. Isabelle sings and dances and the carrot pops out of the ground, bigger and stronger than any of them. They enjoy a meal of carrot stew, carrot relish, carrot juice and carrot pudding.
Author Jan Peck adapted this story from the 19th century Russian folk tale, The Giant Turnip. She adds to the original story by having each of the main characters look forward to a carrot dish that matches the word used to describe them, so tall Papa Joe wants a tall glass of carrot juice and sweet Isabelle wants sweet carrot pudding. It gives each character an individual want, yet they realize that it takes all of them working together to grow the carrot and pull it from the ground. Ms. Peck includes a recipe for Isabelle’s carrot pudding in the back of the book. Illustrator Barry Root uses watercolor and gouache in a palette of warm summery colors that work beautifully to place the story in its rural farm setting. I liked the book’s artwork and its message of teamwork, but it’s not a book I’d seek out to read over and over again.
And what did we learn? What I take away from this book is that everyone’s contribution to a group project matters.