Saturday, August 10, 2013

A great garden book for tots by Janet Stevens

Tops & Bottoms

My recent trip to Bookworm Gardens in Sheboygan brought the delightful book Tops and Bottoms by Janet Stevens.  At the gardens in the Barn/vegetable garden section, there is a vertical garden in plexiglass which allows visitors to see just what grows above the ground and what grows below the ground.  This display allows the delightful story Tops and Bottoms to make sense to young children who have never experienced growing beets and carrots versus, let's say, lettuce and peas.  In the book, lazy landowner Bear does not want the work of gardening his plot so he agrees that clever Hare can plant and they will share the crop.  Hare even let's Bear pick the half he will keep -- tops or bottoms.  When Bear selects tops, Hare wisely plants beets and other root crops.  Thinking he can't be outsmarted a second time, Bear selects bottoms when it is time for the next garden.  You got it, Hare plants all crops that grow above ground leaving Bear worthless roots.  And the story continues, but I'll leave that for you to discover.

Stevens won a Caldecott Honor for this book in 1996.  Caldecotts are given for outstanding and unique illustrations of a children's book.  In this case, the book is actually read and viewed by placing the spine, not at the left, but across.  Then readers follow the story with the two open pages showing what grows above the ground and what is happening beneath the surface.  Very clever and it makes reading the book so much fun.  I believe the story has become a standard in pre-school and kindergarten classes that have food units.
If you've got little ones and you've got a garden, or are visiting one, why not get a copy of this book from your library and share some fun!

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