David's Reviews > Tops & Bottoms

Tops & Bottoms by Janet Stevens
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's review
May 16, 2010

really liked it
bookshelves: picturebooks, read-aloud, caldecott-honor, story-time

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 Hare grow carrots, beets, & radishes, and keeps these root crops while the Bear gets the keafy tops. Bear is not happy & next year demands the tops. So Hare plants lettuce, broccoli, & celery, and Bear gets the useless bottoms. Bear is very mad and demands both tops & bottoms next year. So Hare grows corn, and Bear gets tassels & roots & stalks, while Hare keeps the ears of corn in the middle.

Lazy Bear then decides to stay up and work during planting and harvest season and keep all the profits, learning a lesson. Hare uses the money from the sale of the crops to buy back the land he'd sold to pay his bet with the Tortoise after their famous race.

Steven's illustrations are gorgeous, using bright colors for the detailed paintings, which carry the humourous tale. Themes include gardens, vegetables, laziness, the value of hard work, and cleverness. The book opens vertically so the two page speads are tall. It's a little diffferent to get used to holding the book for read alouds, but the funny, clever story is well worth it.

For ages 6 to 10, garden, vegetable, work, humor, and trickster themes, and fans of the Hare and of Janet Stevens.
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Comments (showing 1-2 of 2) (2 new)

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Shelley Barnow I love this one!


David I do too! The story is clever, the bear is most excellently lazy, & Stevens does a wonderful job both telling the story & illustrating it. I am becoming even more of a Stevens fan as I review some of her work, & look at things I've missed over the years.


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