Plant People

The Plant People

The Retroist comes through once again! After the fotonovel discussion in The Jerk post a couple of days ago, I asked in the forum if anybody knew of a fotonovel or similar book in which people turn into cacti. I remembered reading this book in grade school and wanted to see it again. Sadly, I didn’t know the title, author, or any other pertinent info.

I thought it might be a fotonovel because it had b&w pictures in it, but that’s all I had to go on. The Retroist immediately suggested The Plant People by Dale Carson.

He was, of course, correct. The Plant People is the book I had in grade school. Well, maybe I didn’t read it as much as I looked at it with my friends and perused a few paragraphs. It is indeed about people turning into cacti, but it also includes some fog and talk of alien invasion and environmentalism, that I didn’t remember, and probably never even caught.

Now I’m not sure if this is a fotonovel. It doesn’t say fotonovel on the top as the other fotonovels do and it isn’t list on the Wikipedia Photonovel page. But it does have fotos, and man, are they crazy. The Retroist had dug up this one:

I’m pretty sure that is the one that traumatized me as a kid, kept me going back to this book in the school library, and kept me remembering it today.

It is a scene where the uninfected townspeople discover what has been happening to the missing infected ones. They are going into the desert and turning into cacti! Just the idea of turning into a cactus is scary, but the idea of people standing around discovering it, watching it happen. Sheesh!

Everything about this picture scared me as a kid. It is shocking, eerie and embarrassing. At least I imagine it’s embarrassing to turn into a cactus while everybody watches. The only odd thing is that I remembered it completely differently. I remembered it being a day scene and involving only one other person besides the cactus-in-training.

Another, similar picture that scared me was this one:

Here you see the plant “veins” popping out on one kid. I may have combined this image with the previous one in my memory to create the misremembered picture I just described.

And it wasn’t just the pictures that were scary. The story was scary as well. Look at this exchange:

This passage, which I could remember and thus must have been one of the few I had read, keys into something I’ve always been afraid of. That body-snatcher syndrome of watching yourself being slowly taken over and not being able to do anything about it. Not even realizing that it is happening or realizing it only on a subconscious level. I don’t know how long I’ve been scared of that, but it has been a long time.

Maybe this book is where that fear came from.

Overall, it is an interesting book. It is was an okay read (since it was written for young readers, I could knock it out in 15 minutes). But it is an even better memory.


Doug is a child of the 80s who was raised in Ohio and is now living the life of oblivion in the bay area of California.

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