Janet Stevens’s book Tops and Bottoms is a great spring read-aloud for introducing a planting unit, but there are also some valuable character lessons within the charming tale. Hare learns that even if you have made a mistake in the past, hard work and persistence can turn your circumstances around. Bear learns that not everyone claiming to help can be trusted and the importance of doing your own work.


There was a lazy bear who had lots of money and land. There was also a clever hare who had lost his land and had lots of little rabbits to feed. The hare came up with the idea to be business partners with the bear. Bear thought he was going to get Rabbit to do all the work and collect half the crops, but Hare tricked Bear and kept all the best parts of the vegetables for his family.

Read Aloud Questions

Before Reading

  • What characters do you see on the cover? What can you predict about their personalities?
  • Why do you think there are vegetables strewn about?
  • What do you think the title, Tops & Bottoms means?

During Reading

  • Why do think Rabbit would want to go into business with Bear if he was lazy and wanted to sleep all the time?
  • Why do you think Bear chose the top half the first time Rabbit planted? Why did Rabbit smile about his choice?
  • After being tricked, what do you think Bear will choose this time? What do you think Rabbit will do?

After Reading

  • Do you think the Rabbit is a good character or a bad character? Did he act fairly towards  Bear?
  • What lesson did Bear learn? How does he change because of it?
  • Is this story like real life in any way?

Connecting Standards to Tops and Bottoms

Compare and Contrast

List the character traits and behaviors of Hare and Bear and discuss how they are similar and different.

Story Comprehension

Use a double Somebody Wanted But So Then chart for students to demonstrate their understanding of what was happening with each of the main characters in the story.


Give students pictures of vegetables to sort by tops, bottoms, and middles.

Tops and Bottoms Plural and Singular
Tops and Bottoms Categorize cut and paste
Tops and Bottoms Somebody Wanted But So

Continuing the Learning Fun

You can watch the video if you don’t have a copy of Tops & Bottoms. Learn about Janet Stevens, her books and art, or how to schedule a school visit on Janet’s website.
If you’re looking for more activities for this book, check out the Learning Through Literature book companion in the Resource Ranch store.

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Rhonda is the author of Resource Ranch. Most of her classroom experience has been in early elementary. She has also taught Title I Reading, ESL, and gifted students. She is certified as a Texas teacher in grades 1-8 and as a K-12 librarian.