Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Robert's Snow Illustrator - Janet Stevens

"I am not a snowflake, I'm a dog!"
I first came across the work of Janet Stevens in 1995 when I was looking for children's books on plants to integrate into an elementary science lesson. It was then that I discovered Tops and Bottoms, the story of a lazy bear and enterprising hare. Bear and Hare enter into a deal where Hare and his family will work Bear's land and then split the crops in half. Bear Lazy Bear sleeps through every planting season, so conniving Hare makes a deal. He and his family will work Bear's land and split the crops in half.
"So, what will it be, Bear" asked Hare. "The top half or the bottom half? It's up to you--tops or bottoms."
Bear chooses the top half, so Hare plants root crops, leaving Hare with all the best parts and Bear with a useless harvest. When Bear realizes he has been tricked, he tells Hare to plant the field again, and insists on getting the bottoms. This time Hare plants leafy crops, leaving Bear with another useless harvest. The third time around, Bear requests tops and bottoms, so Hare plants . . . can you guess?

I had great success using this book in the classroom for teaching plant parts. A bit later it occurred to me that this also a terrific choice for teaching economics, as the story is all about opportunity cost, or that valuable alternative you give up when you make a decision.

Tops and Bottoms has gorgeous double-page spreads in a format that opens from top to bottom instead of left to right. This cleverly designed and beautifully illustrated book was awarded a Caldecott Honor medal in 1996.

Since Tops and Bottoms, Janet Stevens has illustrated many lovely books, including some she has collaborated on with her sister and some she has written herself. You may recognize a few of these titles:
Like many illustrator's today, Janet Stevens is very busy working on new projects. However, she wasn't too busy to offer her time and talent to the cause of Robert's Snow. For this year's auction, Janet created a snowflake entitled "I am not a snowflake, I'm a dog!"
I love the wrinkled face full of personality and can just imagine getting thumped by that tail as it swings. If you are interested in bidding on this heartwarming snowflake (oops, I mean dog!), be sure to follow the link for Auction 2. Don't forget that 100 percent of the proceeds from this online auction will benefit sarcoma research at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute. While you are there, be sure to view all the snowflakes up for auction. Each and every one is a unique and amazing work of art.

Finally, be sure to check out the other snowflake illustrators being featured today.
That about wraps it up. I'd like to end this post with a poem from a random Christmas card I found while reading through an old box of letters in my attic. It's an appropriate description of all the wonderful people driving and contributing to Robert's Snow.
Like snowflakes
floating gently,
to earth,
small kindnesses
touch our lives.
First one, and then another
and another,
until at last the world is
bright and shining
with goodwill.

(This snowflake created by Janet Stevens for the 2005 auction.)


  1. What a great post. I have always loved Tops and Bottoms.

  2. What a richly illustrated book Tops and Bottoms is! And the poem -- just the right touch. Nicely done.

  3. I think if I had this snowflake, I'd hang it so the tail was highly visible. One of my fondest memories of my childhood dog is how she would "thump" us and we'd jink and run and she'd thump us some more in her excitement.

    Such a good post! Love the poem too...

  4. Awwww! Such a cute face...and tush! (the DOG'S, silly!)

    Great poem!

  5. I love how that dog's head looks like it's pushing its way through the snowflake. Nice post, thanks for that.

  6. Tricia,

    Janet Stevens has certainly illustrated some wonderful children's books! Two of my favorites are TO MARKET, TO MARKET by Anne Miranda and EPOSSUMONDAS by Colleen Salley. They are such great books to read aloud. Stevens adds so much to the texts in those picture books with her humorous illustrations.

  7. This is a great post, Tricia! I love how creative you all are, especially when you weren't able to reach an illustrator. It's wonderful. Love that snowflake. And I love to see what all these illustrators are doing with their 5 inches of snowflake.

  8. Lovely post! I LOVE this snowflake! Thanks for the poem at the end, too.

  9. This reminds me of a really charming dog book that she illustrated -- The Dog Who Had Kittens, by Polly Robertus. Check it out...

  10. I love that poem and both of her snowflakes. Great post!

  11. My 7th grade students and I read your interview in class today and really enjoyed your voice, as well as the incredible snowflake...I mean, dog. Thanks for sharing this with us!ht

  12. Wow! You guys are awesome! I don't think I've ever received 11 comments on anything. I feel like a rock star. I hope this means that lots of people are making their way to the auction site to look at snowflakes.