Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “Tops & Bottoms” as Want to Read:
Tops & Bottoms
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating

Tops & Bottoms

4.28 of 5 stars 4.28  ·  rating details  ·  4,186 ratings  ·  238 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
more details... edit details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about Tops & Bottoms, please sign up.

Be the first to ask a question about Tops & Bottoms

Madeline by Ludwig BemelmansBlueberries for Sal by Robert McCloskeyThe Stinky Cheese Man by Jon ScieszkaDon't Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus! by Mo WillemsStone Soup by Marcia Brown
Caldecott Honor Books
20th out of 238 books — 135 voters
Miss Rumphius by Barbara CooneyThe Curious Garden by Peter  BrownThe Gardener by Sarah StewartPlanting a Rainbow by Lois EhlertGrandpa Green by Lane Smith
Picture Books About Gardens
16th out of 170 books — 80 voters

More lists with this book...

Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
filter  |  sort: default (?)  |  rating details

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!...more
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
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
Shanna Gonzalez
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
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
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...more
May 20, 2014 Dolly rated it 4 of 5 stars
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.
Oscar Pagoada
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
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...more
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
Sorry, I guess I'm just in a mood to be petty today. I wish the book were smaller, so I could see the whole crop at once. I wish the baby hares grew up as the crops grew. I wish they ate the dandelions and other greens = for example the beet greens are not wasted 'tops.' Otherwise, it's a neat trickster tale, yes. I'd like to read the British (?) version by Lesley Conger.
Hana Sm.
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...more
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
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...more
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
Lauryn Carroll
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
Tops and Bottoms is about a poor Hare who has lost all his land and a bear who has plenty of land but is not using any of it. Hare has to save his large family from starvation, so he tricks the bear into using the land to plant food but ending up with all the food himself.

I really liked this picture book. Not only was it entertaining because you read it top to bottom instead of left to right, but it also gave a good moral: you reap what you sow. I could kind of see American Capitalism set into...more
The first thing about this book my kids found funny is that it opens differently. You hold it what would traditionally be "sideways" and flip the pages up. My kids (9, 7, 5)liked the story and thought it was funny how Rabbit kept tricking Bear. Before the second planting season was over the kids were guessing at what the outcome would be. I like books that are engaging enough that the kids start to extrapolate the next step.
The illustrations aren't my favorite style but I did like the facial exp...more
Katelyn Youngblood
I absolutely loved this book for more reasons than one! First off, the way it plays off of the tortoise and the hare is something that I thought was really interesting. I just love how this book, along with many other forms of folklore books always teach a lesson at the end of the story. With this particular book, you are able to kind of guess where the hare is headed with his manipulation of the bear which allows one to get a better feel of the lesson being taught. All in all, the story is so g...more
More than anything, I like the format of this book. You read it long-ways (if that makes any sense). It's also a nice twist on the traditional Little Red Hen folk-tale. Of course, Janet Steven's illustrations are incredible too.
Lauren Soucy
This works as a read aloud. My students always enjoy it but I find it cumbersome to try to hold the book. It works better with older students because the language is more mature and plot it takes awhile to unfold.
Fantastic page formatting -- our students say they think this book was the first instance of #teambear vs. #teamrabbit, and I have to agree with them!
A fun book. I think Bibi would have really liked it. For more:
The way the book opens, the artwork is incredible and the story such a good one. I loved everything about this book.
Joe Quigg
This book is about a wealthy bear who is lazy and sleeps all day. Then a hare, in attempt to feed his family, makes a deal with the bear. The deal is that the hare uses the bears land to plant crops. The hare proposes that he does all the work and they split the crops in half. When the hare harvests the crops, he gives the bear the half that doesn't have the actual vegetables. The theme of this story is hard work. This could be used to teach children which plants grow above ground, and which one...more
Toryn Coombs
I loved this simple little book! Not only is is about a sly little rabbit tricking a bear with the tops and bottoms of the harvest but it is read up and down as well. I love the creativity of the art in the book, I like how they look realistic yet still has that elementary feel to it. Though not the best moral of the story on the rabbits part, but it is a good book about not sleeping through life and or pay attention because you can be taken advantage of. Loved this book and will for sure have i...more
Feb 03, 2009 Barbara rated it 3 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: children studying where food comes from.
Recommended to Barbara by: A first grade teacher.
This is a clever book adapted and illustrated by Janet Stevens. It suggests what happened to the hare after his famous race with the tortoise. This time he is the neighbor of a rich, lazy bear with lots of land. The hare and his family are poor, so they hatch a plan to take advantage of Bear's laziness and land. Hare wakes up bear and proposes a partnership. He and his family will plant and harvest a crop while bear sleeps. They will give Bear all the tops and they will keep the bottoms. So Bear...more
Sara Check
1.This is a traditional picture book.

2.This Caldecott Honor Book pairs two familiar characters in a very different situation. Hare, a hard-working but unlucky rabbit, uses Bear, who is rich but lazy, to his advantage come harvest time. Hare definitely uses his knowledge about food when it matters most and his family depends on it but when Bear finally catches on, it’s too late.

3.A. Janet Stevens’ traditional tale is pulled from times of hardship and slavery and does a phenomenal job of relating...more
Lisa Mason
Tops and Bottoms is adapted and illustrated by Janet Stevens. It is a delightful tale that tells what happened to a Hare and his family after he lost it all on a ‘risky bet with a tortoise.’ This extension of story places it into the category of traditional literature.

A Caldecott Honor book, Tops and Bottoms details the misfortune of a very lazy bear who owns a lot of land. All he wants to do is sleep, so when Hare offers to farm his land in exchange for half of the crops, Bear is quick to agree...more
I thought this book was so cute I love how it started out with the rabbit losing a bet the tortoise, because of the whole slow and steady wins the race! The artwork in this book is very nicely done and appealing as well!

Hare loses his land because he lost a bet with a tortoise, so he makes a deal with bear. The deal is that if Bear lets Hare use his land that he will give bear half of the veggies. Bear agrees so Hare asks if he wants the tops or bottoms and Bear says he wants the tops....more
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 99 100 next »
There are no discussion topics on this book yet. Be the first to start one »
  • The Faithful Friend
  • The Treasure
  • Seven Blind Mice
  • Noah's Ark
  • The Gardener
  • Peppe the Lamplighter
  • Ella Sarah Gets Dressed
  • The Stray Dog
  • It Could Always Be Worse: A Yiddish Folk Tale
  • A Child's Calendar
  • Epossumondas
  • King Bidgood's in the Bathtub
  • In the Small, Small Pond
  • John Henry
  • Alphabet City
  • Ben's Trumpet
  • Swamp Angel
  • Zin! Zin! Zin! A Violin
Janet Stevens is a children's books illustrator and author.
More about Janet Stevens...
The Princess and the Pea The Great Fuzz Frenzy Help Me, Mr. Mutt!: Expert Answers for Dogs with People Problems The Tortoise and the Hare: An Aesop Fable The Little Red Pen

Share This Book