Friday, February 15, 2008

Tops And Bottoms

Tops And Bottoms
Adapted And Illustrated By Janet Stevens
All Ages

During our recent library trip, my younger child went berserk pulling out all the books she could lay her hands on and thrusting it in to my face to read it for her. One of the books she pulled out was ‘Tops And Bottoms’ by Janet Stevens. The Caldecott Honor sticker on the cover really caught my attention and I borrowed this book from the library.

The rich, lazy bear has plenty of land and money, but he spends all his time sleeping on his front porch. The bear’s neighbor, hare has a huge family to tend to and an empty pocket. So the hare decides to over come its adversity through wit and deception. He strikes a partnership with the bear. The terms of the partnership being:

-the hare gets to work on the bear’s land
-the hare would do all the work
-and at the end of the season the bear would get half of the produce.

The lazy bear immediately agrees and chooses that he wants the top half and goes back to his precious slumber. He sleeps the whole time only to wake up after the harvesting and discovers that the clever hare had planted tubers – carrots, radish, beet root and such. The hare rounds up the goodies and the bear is left with nothing.

The second time the bear chooses the bottom half and goes back to sleep. This time the clever hare plants broccoli, lettuce and celery. Again the hare ends up with the vegetables and the bear gets zilch.

The stubborn bear simply refuses to learn his lesson. He declares that he wants the tops AND bottoms this time around, lets the hare do the work and sleeps through the season. He wakes up to find that the clever hare has planted corn. So all the bear gets is the corn husk! Finally the bear realizes the only way to get the spoils is by getting his hands dirty and decides to take care of his land. The hare, having a huge stock of vegetable, opens his own vegetable stand and takes care of his family.

It is a simple folk tale, packed with messages like ‘You snooze you loose’, ‘One can overcome adversity through wit’, ‘Anything that seems too good to be true is obviously too good to be true’. Plus I thought that it would be a cool way to introduce a bit of botany. My three year old now faithfully repeats things like ‘carrots grow under the ground’, ‘celery grows over the ground’, ‘the bear gets kuppai(meaning: stuff that is not worth anything) because he didn’t work’. But I think it is mostly rote, because, how much ever I explain that carrots grow under the ground, she is finding very hard to visualize it.

For some reason both my three year old and my almost two year old love this book. The only reason I can come up with - the illustrations. The older one bursts in to a full-blown laughter whenever she sees the lazy bear sprawled over the patio chair. The younger one gets a kick out of identifying ‘cawee’(carrot) and ‘baathalee’(broccoli).

Another thing that needs to be mentioned is the orientation of the book. The spine has to be held horizontal and as you finish a page it has to be flipped up. There is a full page illustration of a garden. The spine is the ground and it shows tubers at the lower half of the book, growing under the ground, and vegetable like celery and lettuce at the top half of the book, growing above the ground.

This is definitely a book that I will reintroduce to my three-year-old in a few months time.

1 comment:

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