Tops And Bottoms The Nature Book List

This charming picture book shares the story of neighbors Bear & Hare and outlines the vegetable growing process of planting, weeding, watering and harvesting. With beautiful illustrations, this story also teaches the edible parts (the tops, bottoms, and middles) of various vegetable plants like carrots, lettuce and corn. The clever rabbit and lazy bear characters appeal to children in this traditional trickster style fable.


Educator notes:

  • This book also demonstrates the early literacy concept of how a book works since its pages presented in a vertical orientation instead of the traditional orientation.
Author: Janet Stephens Illustrator: Janet Stephens Publication year: 1995 Publisher: Harcourt Brace ISBN: 9780152928513 Number of pages: 36 NAAEE: Strand 1: Questioning, Analysis, and Interpretation Skills Find At Your Library


How Did That Get In My Lunchbox?: The Story of Food  books

Simple, engaging nonfiction about a kid friendly and familiar item - the lunchbox! This brightly illustrated book provides an introduction to agriculture production methods for common food items, like bread, cheese and even chocolate chip cookies. Text integrates agriculture and botanical related vocabulary ie: pods on a cocoa tree, and combine harvester machine for wheat, creates harvest timelines that include growing, picking, processing and transport, and also provides accurate seasonal growth progressions (apple juice) and travel maps to enhance the comprehension of the global food market system.

 Educator notes:

  • Book features seasonal plant growth timelines and steps involved in food processes from the farm to the table (and lunchbox!) to introduce understanding food systems.
Author: Christine Butterworth Illustrator: Lucia Gaggiotti Publication year: 2011 Publisher: Candlewick Press ISBN: 9780763650056 Number of pages: NAAEE: Strand 2: Knowledge of Environmental Processes and Systems Find At Your Library
Topic: Gardening, Vegetables, Food Literacy Age: Primary (K-3) Active Learning Strategy: Sensory Storytelling

Type: Individual/Whole Group Exercise

Title: Foods we eat and how they grow

Learning Objectives: The student will:

  • Observe, handle and explore various vegetables and discuss plant roots, shoots and edible parts of common foods
  • Learn about the processes involved in bringing food to their table and lunchbox
  • Share these observations with peers and connect them to a text



This activity involves students watching a puppet show presentation or video of the picture book, Tops and Bottoms and then using their senses to observe and explore common vegetables, and discuss what are edible portions, roots, etc. with other members of their class. This exercise will help them connect to the content and theme (food/vegetables/lunchbox) of the paired texts. If possible, a visit to a garden would enhance observation skills, provide additional questioning and analysis dialogue, and engage all the senses in an outdoor experience.



  • Copies of both texts
  • Bear and rabbit puppets (optional)
  • Various types of vegetables ( ie: carrots, radishes, beets with the tops attached, lettuce, broccoli on a stem and corn on the cob) for show and tell exploration 
  • Sample lunchbox with standard contents from text
  • Vegetable snacks for added sensory experience


  • Practice and/or record reading of Tops and Bottoms with puppets, if using. 
  • List talking points on edible plant parts with examples for discussion.

Direct Instruction:

  1. Librarian and/or educator will read and/ or perform Tops and Bottoms. Puppet show option works better with two performers (Bear and Hare) and creates a great dynamic platform for discussion afterwards.
  2. In small groups or individually, students will read How Did That Get in My Lunchbox?: The story of Food

Guided and Independent Practice:


Lead discussion involving comparison of vegetable parts and lunch box contents. Allow children to touch and play with vegetables and talk about which parts are seen in the garden. This activity also lends itself well to using a K-W-L chart which can be done on a whiteboard or in general discussion. Colored printables, magazine or other colored pictures could be used to create a bulletin board or mural display. Allow the children to discuss and explain what they have seen and eaten, where they saw and obtained it, and what they now know is required to produce individual foods.




This activity can be adapted in so many different ways and with different literature texts. As part of a larger curriculum about agricultural and food literacy, this activity is a wonderfully engaging introduction to plant and food systems. The sensory portion is key, in my opinion, to connect children with actual raw vegetables, and a garden visit/demonstration would reinforce and enhance the instruction and knowledge retention rate.