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Tops & Bottoms

4.3  ·  Rating Details ·  5,725 Ratings  ·  311 Reviews
Hare solves his family’s problems by tricking rich and lazy Bear in this funny, energetic version of an old slave story. With roots in American slave tales, Tops & Bottoms celebrates the trickster tradition of using one’s wits to overcome hardship. “As usual, Stevens’ animal characters, bold and colorful, are delightful. . . . It’s all wonderful fun, and the book opens ...more
Hardcover, 40 pages
Published March 29th 1995 by HMH Books for Young Readers
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Community Reviews

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I have been reading many stories that were inspired by Uncle Remus’ “Brer Rabbit” stories for many years, but I have never come across a story quite like this one! “Tops and Bottoms” is a Caldecott Honor Book that is written and illustrated beautifully by Janet Stevens and it is a trickster tale that is inspired by many European folktales and African-American folktales of the South that deal with the subject of a trickster character teaching their rivals a lesson in hard work and determination!
Hare and his family are hungry. You see, Hare lost all his land in a bad bet with tortoise (haha, get it?) Bear sleeps all day on the front porch of his house, presiding over his large front yard. Hare decides to strike up a business deal with Bear. Hare will farm the land and give Bear half the veggies. "Which half do you want, tops or bottoms?" asks Hare. "Tops!" Bear declares, before promptly falling back asleep. And he sleeps all through the work of planting and harvesting the crops. When th ...more
While I most definitely enjoyed Tops & Bottoms, I tend to find the illustrations a bit too brash, bold and in-your-face for my personal tastes (and having to turn the book on its side, really rather annoyed me at first). That being said, I can appreciate that this cumulative folktale adaptation will likely be a hit with youngsters, and the illustrations both compliment and complement the narrative (text and image certainly work well together).

Tops & Bottoms reminds me of European folktal
Randie D. Camp, M.S.
Tops & Bottoms is a humorous trickster tale based in European folktales and slave stories from the American South. The hare uses his wit to outsmart the lazy bear and maximize his profits during the cropping season. The trick is in whether the hare or the bear will collect either the “tops” or “bottoms” of crops. Of course, the sleeping bear is unaware of the crops being planted and always manages to get the useless parts of the produce. Janet Stevens’ text and illustrations are balanced wel ...more
Jun 05, 2015 Dominik rated it it was amazing
There aren't many picture books which are funny, educative, and visually attractive at the same time. "Tops & Bottoms" by Janet Stevens is one of such books.

The story is strong criticism of feudal system, which is presented in the book. There is Bear, who owns land, and Hare, who doesn't have land, but who is willing to work. In return for the work, he has a right to take half of the crop. However, as we could see, Hare is a born business person and he is the one who makes profits from the l
May 20, 2014 Dolly rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: parents reading with their children
This is a fantastic 'trickster' fable type of story with an interesting "top and bottom" book format. It made the book a bit cumbersome to read, but we still had a lot fun reading it. The illustrations are very fun and expressive; our girls really enjoyed reading this book.

This book was selected as one of the books for the May 2014 - Gardening discussion at the Picture-Book Club in the Children's Books Group here at Goodreads.
Marta Michniewicz
May 20, 2015 Marta Michniewicz rated it it was amazing
A hilarious book about a bear and a rabbit tangled in a farm business. From the very first page, the story surprises the readers with the professional, business-related words and phrases, for instance "a smart business bear," which sound incredibly funny when used in relation to the typical fairy-tale characters, such as a bear, a rabbit, or even a tortoise.

The layout of the book is really well-done. First of all, I liked the correspondence between the the vertical pattern of the book and its ti
Shanna Gonzalez
Oct 05, 2009 Shanna Gonzalez rated it it was amazing
Shelves: children-04-08
This tale is derived from European folktales and slave stories of the American South. In it, the industrious but unscrupulous Hare is pitted against the profoundly lazy Bear. Hare proposes that he and his family work Bear's land (some of which which had originally been his) in exchange for half of the crops produced, and Bear may have first choice of whether he gets the tops or bottoms of the crops. Bear agrees, chooses tops, and goes to sleep on the porch of his falling-apart house while Hare p ...more
Mar 19, 2013 Sandy rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorite, own, childrens
So do you like tops or bottoms better? Hare is smart but he has had some problems with his money and now his family is hungry. Sleepy, lazy old bear thinks he is the smartest of the two, when hare wants to plant the field in front of bear’s house. So when Bear says tops, Hare plants crops that produce their vegetation under the ground. While Bear sleeps, Hare waters and weeds around the seeds and helps the plants grow. When they are grown, he tears the tops off and throws them in a pile for Bear ...more
Feb 21, 2011 David rated it really liked it
Tops & Bottoms by Janet Stevens is a great adaption of European folktales & slave stories of the American South, including the Brer Rabbit tales. Hare uses his wits, in the trickster tradition, to overcome hardhip & profit from the lazy ways of his neighbor, Bear, who owns lots of land.

Rabbit proposes a partnership, with Bear where Hare's family will plant and harvest a crop while Bear sleeps. Their first agreement is to give Bear all the tops while the Hares keep the bottoms. So Ha
I have loved this book since I first read it, while I was in college, probably a year or two after it was published. At the time, the orientation of the book seemed quite unique and I loved (and still love) that the illustrations for the book were created on paper made from vegetables. While I think the story is good, a fun trickster type tale, the illustrations are the best. Despite loving this book (and having read it to my students), I had apparently never read it to my own children until thi ...more
May 03, 2014 Beverly rated it it was amazing
I thoroughly enjoy this humorous Afro-American folktale every time I read it. Every growing season for three years, Rabbit thinks of a clever way to outsmart the lazy bear who doesn't want to grow his own crops, but is happy for Rabbit to do all the work. But each time, Rabbit manages to keep the best part of the crop. I have used this book with groups of children before, and they enjoy the tricks the Rabbit plays on the bear. The watercolor, colored pencil and gesso cartoon paintings are large ...more
Jun 08, 2015 Paweł rated it it was amazing
Shelves: picture-books
Fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, shame on me; fool me thrice...?

If you ever find yourself trying to figure out the correct way to expand the abovementioned words of wisdom, do not hesitate to reach out for “Tops & Bottoms” by Janet Stevens. It might not be the flashiest picture book around, but it definitely gets the job done, providing the reader with a healthy dose of humor, useful information (turns out food doesn’t grow in supermarkets) and fitting visuals, all within the bound
Jun 08, 2015 Oliwia added it
Shelves: picture-books
I really like this book. It is about changes for the better.

Tops & Bottoms is a book about a Bear and a family of hares. The Bear is very rich and owns lots of land, the problem is that he is very lazy and all he wants to do is sleep. When it comes to the hares, they are poor and hungry. The father – Hare with his wife – Mrs. Hare decide to make a deal with the Bear. They make a proposal that they will plant some vegetables on his field and they will split the plants once they are ready. The
May 10, 2015 Patti rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Because my friend Jenni and I love to share little kid books, I want to add two favorites of mine. I read “Tops & Bottoms” to my grandson’s kindergarten class last week and they loved it as much as I do! It’s funny, clever, brilliantly illustrated (Caldecott Honor) and yes, it’s educational too.

It the story of very poor Hare, and his clever plan to feed his family. (Hare is poor because he lost all his land to a speedy tortoise…but that’s another story!) Living close by is extremely rich Be
Lana Harriman
Personal Reflection – This was a super cute story. I loved everything about it! The cover spoke to me, the artwork entertained me from page to page, and the writing style and story itself kept me captivated. This book made me feel like a kid again when it came to the excitement of a good picture storybook. The lazy bear kept falling for the rabbits’ tricks which kept me chuckling and anticipating what those clever rabbits could possibly come up with next. Children will love this book! My two gir ...more
Mar 29, 2015 Corine rated it liked it
In this folk tale children's book, it starts out with the hare from the famous story, "The Tortoise and the Hare". As soon as the child sees this connection, they are already inclined to read the rest of the story. The hare from this story lost his bet with the tortoise and is now in debt. He needs to find a way to make money so he can provide food for himself and his family. Soon the hare concocts an idea that involves a very lazy and not so bright bear.

The hare tricks the bear into giving the
Fernando Coronado
Mar 29, 2015 Fernando Coronado rated it it was amazing
Tops and Bottoms was a Caldecott Medal Winner in 1992 and it followed the infamous Hare, the same hare who lost his land to a the tortoise in a race. After he lost all of his land, he needed to find a way to support them. This is when he notices all the land of Bear and how lazy and lack of proper usage of the land. That is when he strikes a deal with bear, however, hare must trick his way in profiting the max out of Bear, and that’s where the trouble starts.

Children’s books usually involve some
Brian Cortes
Stevens, Janet. Tops & Bottoms. 1995. On the inner flap of the book the author explains the background of the story and introduces the characters of the story. Mr. Bear is a wealthy man that has a lot of money and land, but Mr. Hare and Mrs. hare are poor and have hungry children. Mr. Hare and Mrs. Hare devise a plan to force the Mr. Bear to share the wealth. Mr. Hare proposes a business proposition to Mr. Bear, in which Mr. Hare and his family will do all the work and Mr. Bear supplies the ...more
I read this book to my library students as part of a "fable" unit of study. In this story, though, the rabbit is a trickster, so it could be considered a trickster tale, too. The bear is lazy and doesn't want to work. The rabbit is destitute due to losing his bet with the tortoise. So, the rabbit makes a deal with the lazy bear: "If you let me plant crops on your land, I'll split the profits 50/50. Do you want to keep the top half or the bottom half?" First the bear picks the top half. The rabbi ...more
Oscar Pagoada
Jun 30, 2014 Oscar Pagoada rated it really liked it
Tops and Bottoms is a book unlike I've ever read before. The book is published in a rather peculiar fashion. The book is printed in an upside down fashion! The first thing that came across my mind was that it reminded me of a flip book. Just as like one of Aesop's Fables the hare gets outsmarted by a tortoise and has to sell his land. He is unable to grow food for his many starving children because he sold his self sustaining land to the lazy bear. In order for his family to survive the cunning ...more
Morgan Carter
Apr 27, 2014 Morgan Carter rated it really liked it
Shelves: traditional-book
Tops & Bottoms, by Janet Stevens is a great book for all young traditional readers. My personal opinion of this book was that it was absolutely adorable. I love the storyline, illustrations and creativity used to design the layout of this book.

This book is about a Hare that creates a partnership, with Bear in which Hare's family plants and harvests crops on his land, while Bear sleeps the entire time. The first agreement is to give Bear all the tops and give Hare the bottoms. Hare grow car
Mar 30, 2014 Bridget rated it it was amazing
Shelves: picturebooks
One of the neatest things about Tops and Bottoms is how the book opens vertically (from top to bottom) rather than horizontally (from side to side). The vertical orientation and double panel artwork complement the theme of the story; the reader goes from top to bottom of panels. In the story, the hare makes a deal with the bear. He and his family will work Bear's land and split the crops in half. In an act of “fairness” Hare lets Bear choose which half of the crop he he wants "tops or bottoms." ...more
Becca Ramsey
This fiction picture book was great. I loved all the illustrations and the message that it gives. Tops and bottoms by Janet Stevens has received the Caldecott Honor Book Award. The story is about a poor hare who outsmarts a wealthy, lazy bear by making business deals with him and then outsmarting him. The hare would make a deal with the bear that he would keep the bottom of the plants if the bear would keep the tops and once the harvest season was over, the hare, after planting only carrots and ...more
Zhānlìyàn Liú
Oct 13, 2015 Zhānlìyàn Liú rated it really liked it
Title: Tops & Bottoms
Author: Janet Stevens
Genre: Fable
Theme(s): Hard work, don't take the easy way out
Opening line/sentence: Once upon a time there lived a very lazy bear who had lots of money and lots of land.
Brief Book Summary: The book describes a lazy bear with a lot of land and money and a hard working rabbit with no money or land who both decided to be business partners. The rabbit agreed to work hard and plant crops on the bear's land while the bear slept, and they would split tops an
Hana Sm.
Jan 24, 2014 Hana Sm. rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This book deserves 5 stars, I don't know why anybody would give it less than 5.
I like how this story develops from the "tortoise & the hare" fable. In this story, the rabbit (or hare) is broke after losing a bet that he could beat the tortoise in a race. He is poor and his wife & kids are starving. He thinks of a scheme to feed his family. The way he does it is slick but you don't hate him for it.

I have reread this story repeatedly, because it is that good. This story took a simple conc
This book made me smile at the cleverness of the Hare. Just when I thought that the bear had beaten him, he pulled another trick from his sleeve and was all the better. A most enjoyable book that has roots of education in it as well. I'd recommend it.

*Taken from my book reviews blog:
Camille Ryckman
May 08, 2014 Camille Ryckman rated it it was amazing
Brief summary
Hare and Bear become partners in a farming deal, but Hare finds a way each season to get the better of the lazy Bear.
This is a great book for read aloud and allows students to think about what hard work means and how being cleaver pays off. For students who are gardening or want to grow vegetables it is a good way to introduce varies vocabulary as well as context for vegetables grown above and below ground.
Age appropriateness
3-8 year olds
Connection to six early literacy
May 14, 2015 Agapuci rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The story is so hilarious! I like it! It's about a bear who is too lazy to do anything but to sleep. The result is that he doesn't get any crops grown, as the rabbits take everything for themselves. only those who work hard and take care of their own possessions will purchase something. If someone is lazy, he is destined to have absolutely nothing. This is the morale from the book. Everyone must make huge effort in order to gain anyhting in life, and nothing is for free. The bear learns his less ...more
Lauryn Carroll
Sep 25, 2014 Lauryn Carroll rated it it was amazing
This story has a good moral and a creative plot. I thought it was interesting that the book opens up and down and that the title of the book is "Tops & Bottoms." One of the main characters is a hare and he takes advantage of the bear which is interesting. In the classic fable of the tortoise and the hare, the tortoise wins over the hare, but in this book, the hare wins over the bear. This book has really fun and interesting illustrations. I think they really brought this story to life. I als ...more
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Janet Stevens began drawing as a child. Pictures decorated her walls, mirrors, furniture and school work -- including math assignments. While this didn't always sit well with her teachers, it was what she loved to do.

Janet’s father was in the Navy therefore she moved a great deal and attended many schools while growing up.

After graduating from high school in Hawaii in 1971 she landed a job creati
More about Janet Stevens...

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