Great Books
We believe in the power of story.
In our Great Books column, you’ll find suggested titles for preschool, elementary, and secondary students—along with a book synopsis, why you’ll want to read it, discussion questions, and related books.
“When you read a book, you are in a mind-to-mind encounter with its author, whether he lived 1000 years ago or lives today. This is the wonder of real books—all kinds of books, not only the serious and factual. Your mind grows through these encounters.”
—Dr. Ruth Beechick
Tops and Bottoms book cover
Wise Choices for Bountiful Harvests
Based on
Tops & Bottoms
adapted and illustrated by
Janet Stevens
“A funny Caldecott Honor winning fairy-tale retelling.”
Book Description:
Bear is lazy. He owns acres of land on which he could grow vegetables, but he wants to sleep. Hare has a hungry family. He is shrewd. Hare presents a plan—a tricky plan—to Bear, offering to share the harvest if Bear shares his land. Bear agrees to share the land, but he must choose the tops or the bottoms of the harvest. Hare works. Bear sleeps. Harvest time comes and Bear is fooled. Using text, vibrant watercolor, and colored pencil illustrations, the author/illustrator weaves a story to teach a lesson, one that will not quickly be forgotten.
Why You Will Want To Read This Book:
Tops & Bottoms is a Caldecott Honor Book adapted and illustrated by Janet Stevens (Harcourt, 1995). The Caldecott Medal is “awarded annually by the Association for Library Service to Children… to the artist of the most distinguished American picture book for children.” As you can imagine, the illustrations in this book will delight your children!

It’s also an engaging trickster folktale with twists the reader might not see coming as one animal outsmarts another to beat hardship and feed his family. These types of books lend themselves perfectly to teaching children about character traits we want—and don’t want—to develop in our own lives.

Page excerpt from Tops and bottoms book
Discussion Questions:
There are several lessons to be learned from the trickster tale in this beautiful picture book. Bear was lazy, wanting only to sleep, hence, he did not think through his decisions. Hare was crafty, using his shrewdness to trick Bear. Was Hare acting kindly when he tricked Bear? How did Bear’s choices leave him vulnerable to be tricked, not just once, but three times? What choices could Bear have made? As a family, talk about laziness and the consequences of the choice to be lazy.
More Books Like This:
Stevens, along with her sister, follows Tops & Bottoms up with another trickster tale featuring Bear and Hare: The Donkey Egg. They also team up for The Great Fuzz Frenzy. For a non-fiction book perfect for the harvest season, check out The Vegetables We Eat by Gail Gibbons.
hands holding phone with Autumn Activity Guide displayed
Activity Guide typography
For fun, hands-on activities for each of the Great Books, check out our Autumn Activity Guide! …>
hands holding phone with Autumn Activity Guide displayed