Rabbit is thrilled that spring has arrived, so he can plant carrot seeds and soon be spooning up his favorite food carrot soup. He plants all sorts of varieties of the orange vegetable, including Early Horn, Short 'N' Sweet and Thumbelina. He plows, plants, waters, weeds, and waits and waits. And then one happy day he sets out to harvest his crop with his tools and wheelbarrow. There's a problem, of course. Rabbit searches and searches but finds no carrots! He begins quizzing his friends, who each, in turn, proclaim innocence and send him along to the next friend. We soon realize that something is afoot. For instance, Mole tells Rabbit to ask Dog, but in the distance we see Dog carting away carrots in a wheelbarrow. The telltale clue: a balloon floats along beside the wheelbarrow. Rabbit gets more and more frantic as he goes from friend to friend. Near the end of the book, as Rabbit quizzes Duck, we see Cat, Dog, Mole and Pig using a tractor to haul away mounds of carrots, along with plenty of balloons.

Young readers will delight in the continuing joke, culminating with a surprise birthday party back at Rabbit's house. Everyone digs into bowls of carrot soup, and Segal includes a recipe at the end, one that sounds great to my adult palette and is likely to entice even enthusiastic little taste buds. John Segal's pencil and watercolor illustrations are delicate yet strongly expressive, with soft tones that frame Rabbit's many changing moods. His broad strokes are full of fun. This is a simple tale but one that the toddler set is sure to love. Carrot Soup is a great way to start spring with any young reader. Before you know it, you're likely to be planting seeds, weeding gardens and brewing up some soup of your own. Alice Cary tends her garden in Groton, Massachusetts.

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