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Beans on the Roof

Beans on the Roof

by Betsy Byars

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George Bean always wants to play on the roof of his apartmentbuilding. But only his older sister Anna can sit there, because she's writing a roof poem. Anna may be the first Bean to be in a book if the poem wins a contest at school.

George decides to write a roof poem too. Soon all the Beans are on the roof writing the roof poems. All except George. He needs some


George Bean always wants to play on the roof of his apartmentbuilding. But only his older sister Anna can sit there, because she's writing a roof poem. Anna may be the first Bean to be in a book if the poem wins a contest at school.

George decides to write a roof poem too. Soon all the Beans are on the roof writing the roof poems. All except George. He needs some inspiration. How will he get it?

Editorial Reviews

School Library Journal
Gr 2-5 Byars' portrayal of the Bean family is fresh, crisp, and perfectly done. Here she turns her poetic style to the subject of poetrypoetry written on the apartment roof by various members of the engaging Bean family. When Anna retreats to the roof to write a poem for school, she is joined first by her brother, George; then by her sister, Jenny; followed by their mother; and finally their father. Poetic fever engulfs the family, and all write a roof poemall except forlorn George, to whom creative inspiration will not come, thus making him the only Bean without a poem. Two threads tie the story togetherthe family's conviction that Anna will be ``the first Bean to be in a book,'' and George's frustration with his writer's block. In the end, George does write a poemand Anna is devastated when her poem is not selected for the school's book. The Bean parents' unabashed pride in their children and the family's love for each other combine with Byars' fine ear for dialogue among siblings and deft characterizations to make a book that should be a first choice among children just beginning chapter books, as well as reluctant readers. Trev Jones, ``School Library Journal''

Product Details

Random House Children's Books
Publication date:
Edition description:
Product dimensions:
5.34(w) x 7.65(h) x 0.23(d)
280L (what's this?)
Age Range:
8 - 12 Years

Read an Excerpt

Beans on the Roof

By Betsy Byars


Copyright © 1988 Betsy Byars
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-4532-9425-3


A Bean on the Roof


George ran into the kitchen.


"Please don't shout, George," Mrs. Bean said.

"I have to shout! You have to hear this! Anna is on the roof! I saw her from Frankie's window!"

"I know Anna is on the roof," Mrs. Bean said.

"But you told us never to play on the roof. You said we'd bother Mr. Brown's rabbits. You said we'd run into the clotheslines and dirty the clothes."

"Anna is not playing, George," Mrs. Bean said. "Anna is sitting."


George stopped. Then he said quickly, "I'm going up there and sit too."

George had wanted to play on the roof since the day they moved into the apartment.

"No, George," Mrs. Bean said.

George put his hands on his hips.

"Why not?" he said. "That's not fair. Anna gets to do everything. She gets to stay up late. She gets to ride the bus. Now she gets to sit on the roof. It's not fair!"

"George, will you be quiet and listen? Anna is on the roof because it is the only place she can write her poem."

George's mouth fell open.

"Anna is writing a poem?"

"That's right, George."

"I didn't know Anna knew how to write a poem."

"Yes, Anna is writing a poem. If the poem is good, it will be in a book at her school."

"A real book?"

"Yes, Anna will be the first Bean to be in a book. I want everybody to leave her alone."

George thought fast. He said, "Can I go up on the roof if I write a poem?"


"Why not, Mama? That's really not fair."

"If you want to write a poem, George, you can do it at the table."

George groaned.

"Here is a piece of paper, George. Here is a pencil."

George said, "Why does Anna get to write on the roof and I have to write at the table?"

"Anna's poem is a roof poem. Yours is not."

George sat down at the table. He thought. He twirled his pencil. He bit it. He admired his teeth prints in the wood. He thought some more.

Finally he sighed. "I can't write a poem at the table. I'm sorry. I just can't. I have to be on the roof, like Anna."

Mrs. Bean gave in.

"All right," she said. "You may go up on the roof and write one poem. But you must not bother Anna."

"I won't."

"I mean it. Anna is the first Bean to be in a book."

"I won't bother her," George said.

He crossed his heart.

"And thank you very much, Mama."

George ran out of the apartment. He ran up the steps. He pushed open the door and stepped onto the roof.

Clean clothes snapped in the wind. Pigeons cooed in their cages. Rabbits hopped in theirs.

George took a deep breath of good roof air.

This was the place to write a poem. And George was going to write the best poem in the whole world.


Two Beans on the Roof


He said softly, "Hello, Anna."

Anna did not answer. She was looking across the rooftops. George said, "Mama said I could come up and write a poem too."

Anna did not answer.

George said, "I can write a poem if I don't bother you. And I won't bother you, Anna. I promise."

Anna closed her eyes.

"I won't bother you, no matter what."

George watched Anna. Then he closed his eyes too.

It worked. He finished his poem at once.

"I am going to write my poem down," he said. "That way I will always have it. I will never, ever forget it."

George bent over his paper.

"You ought to write yours down too, Anna. That way you will always have it. You will never, ever forget it."

George printed his poem on the paper. He was glad he could spell all the words. He did not have to bother Anna at all.

This was George's poem:

    The cat was fat.
    It sat on a hat.
    The hat got flat.

Then he wrote:

A poem by George (String) Bean.

The kids at school called George String Bean. They called his sister Jenny Jelly Bean. They called Anna Anna.

George was very happy with his poem. He read it three times to himself.

"Want to hear my poem?" George asked.

Anna was looking across the rooftops.

"It's not a long poem, Anna, and it's a funny poem. It will make you laugh."

George laughed thinking about it.

"Do you want to hear it, Anna—yes or no?"

Anna didn't answer.

Finally George got tired of waiting. He said, "Well, here goes, ready or not."

He held up his paper. He began to read:

The cat was fat. It sat—

"Mama," Anna yelled, "String's bothering me."

Mrs. Bean stuck her head out the window. "Now, Anna," she called, "you know I don't like you to call your brother String. His name is George."

Anna said, "All right, George is bothering me, Mama."

"That's better."

"I can't write a poem with George reciting his junk."

George jumped up.

"Mama, it is not junk! It is a poem! It rhymes."

"It may rhyme," Anna said, "and it may be a poem. However, it is not a poem that has to be written on the roof. You could write a poem like that anywhere."

"I could not! I tried to write it at the table. Mama saw me. I tried and I could not write one word."

"I will show you a roof poem," Anna said. "This is a roof poem."

Mrs. Bean called, "Anna, if you're going to say your poem, please say it real loud. I want to hear it."

"I will, Mama."

Anna stood up. She held her head high. She said her poem good and loud:

    From my roof
    I can see
    Beyond the town,
    Beyond the sea,
    Beyond Africa,
    Asia, too—

Anna stopped. "That's all I've got so far, Mama," she said. "I have to think of something that rhymes with too."

"Goo, boo, cuckoo," said George.

"Do your own poem," Anna said.

"I did!"

"The cat poem does not count. If you can't do a roof poem, you have to go downstairs, and write at the table. Isn't that right, Mama?"

George said quickly, "My cat poem was a practice poem. Now I will do my real poem. It will be a roof poem."

To himself he said, And it will be the best roof poem in the whole world. It will even be better than Anna's.

He turned his paper over. He twirled his pencil. He bit it. He admired his teeth prints in the wood.

He closed his eyes to think.


Three Beans on the Roof

GEORGE GOT UP. "I need a break," he told Anna. "This is hard work."

George walked to the side of the roof. He looked over the wall. His sister Jenny was on the sidewalk below. Jenny was jumping rope. Instead of "Teddy Bear, Teddy Bear," Jenny was saying:

Jelly Bean, Jelly Bean,
Turn around.
Jelly Bean, Jelly Bean,
Touch the ground.
Jelly Bean, Jelly Bean,
Shine your shoes.
Jelly Bean, Jelly Bean,
Read the news.

George yelled, "Jelly Bean! Look where I am!"

"Time out," Jenny said. She stopped jumping and looked up at the roof of her apartment building.

George said, "Hello down there."

Jenny said, "String, is that you on the roof?"

George said, "It's not Santa Claus."

Jenny said, "String Bean, you know we are not allowed on the roof. I'm going to tell Mama."

Jenny ran upstairs and into the kitchen.


"Don't shout, Jenny," Mrs. Bean said.

"I have to shout! You have to hear this! String is playing on the roof!"

Mrs. Bean said, "Jenny, I asked you not to call your brother String."

"I forgot. I'll start over. George is playing on the roof."

"That's better. Both George and Anna are on the roof, Jenny, but they are not playing."

"They aren't?"


"Then what are they doing?"

"They are writing roof poems."

Jenny's mouth fell open. "I didn't know they could write roof poems, Mama."

"Yes, they can."

"George too?"

"George is trying. The only place a Bean can write roof poems is on the roof."

"Can I go up and write a poem?" Jenny asked quickly.

Jenny held her breath. After she wrote her poem, she would recite it for the rabbits. And the pigeons. It would be like a play! She was sure the rabbits and the pigeons had never seen a play.

"Oh, I guess so," Mrs. Bean said. "But it has got to be a roof poem. Otherwise, you write at the table."

"It will be a roof poem," said Jenny. "That is a promise." She crossed her heart.

"And don't bother Anna."

"I won't. That's another promise."

"Or the pigeons or the rabbits."

"I won't. That's—" Jenny stopped. "Does that mean I can't say my poem for them?"

"Well ..."

"Please, Mama, they never get to hear poems."

"All right."

Jenny stopped at the door. "And, Mama ..."


"Thank you very, very much."

Jenny ran up the steps. She pushed open the door. She stepped out on the roof. She took a breath of good roof air.

Sheets snapped in the wind. Pigeons cooed. Rabbits hopped. Jenny smiled.

"I'm here, everybody," she said. "Mama says I can write a roof poem too!"

"It's not easy," George warned.


Four Beans on the Roof

JENNY RAN TO THE edge of the roof. She called to her friends, "I can't jump rope anymore. I have to write a poem. Bye!"

Then she sat down between Anna and George.

She said to George, "I love it up here. I am on top of the world."

She said to Anna, "This was a wonderful idea, Anna. I love being on the roof."

Anna frowned. She said, "Jenny, I thought you came up here to write a poem."

"I did."

"Then write it."

"I did."

"You've already written your poem?" George asked in surprise.

George's cat poem had come fast. His roof poem had not come at all.

"Yes," said Jenny. "Do you want to hear it?"

"I do," George said quickly.

"Here goes," Jenny said:

I love the roof, And that's the truth.

"It's short," George said.

"I like short poems," Jenny said.

"But it doesn't rhyme."

"It does when I say it," Jenny said.

Jenny was missing two front teeth. She said her poem again to show that it did rhyme:

I love the roof, And that's the troof.

Then she said, "See?"

Anna said, "Yes. Now stop bothering me."

Jenny got up. She went over to the rabbit cage. She said, "Want to hear my poem, rabbits? You too, pigeons?"

George said, "Mama said not to bother the rabbits and the pigeons."

"I'm reciting a poem for them. That is not bothering them." She grinned. "Come on, String, you can be my announcer."

"Oh, all right." George got up. He said to Anna, "I'll do my poem later." Then he went to the cages.

"Announce it the way they do on the radio, String. Say—"

"I know what to say. I listen to the radio too." George cleared his throat. "Ladies and gentlemen!"

"It would be better if you said, Rabbits and—"

George said, "Rabbits and gentlemen!"

"Not Rabbits and gentlemen! String, you're making me laugh. I won't be able to say my poem. Rabbits and pigeons!"

"Oh, all right! But this is the last time I'm doing it. Rabbits and pigeons! Here is a Bean saying a poem!"

"Thank you." Jenny Bean stepped forward. She said:

I love the roof, And that's the troof.

"String!" a voice called. It was Frankie at the window across the street. "What are you guys doing on the roof?"

Jenny called back, "Oh, Frankie, we're having so much fun. We're making up poems."

"Don't tell him that!" George said. "Don't—" He broke off. He went and sat down by Anna. His face was red.

Frankie said, "String is writing a po-em? String, can I hear your po-em?"

George didn't answer.

"Can I come over and do a po-em?"

Mrs. Bean heard Frankie. She stuck her head out the window. "No, Frankie, you can't come over. Only Beans on the roof."

Frankie said, "Yes, Mrs. Bean."

"And," Mrs. Bean went on, "the word is poem, Frankie. Not po-em."

"Yes, Mrs. Bean." Frankie moved back from the window. Mrs. Bean did too.

Suddenly Jenny said, "Mama!"

"What? What happened?"

Mrs. Bean put her head out the window again.

"Nothing happened—I just had a wonderful idea. I want you to come up on the roof and write a poem."


"Yes, Mama."

"Why, I could never write a poem. I didn't even get to finish school."

"Come on, Mama," George said. "I will help you, and you can help me."

"Yes, Mama, please try," Anna said.

Mrs. Bean said, "Oh, all right."

She came up the stairs, wiping her hands on her apron.

Mrs. Bean stepped on the roof. She went over to the clothesline. She felt her clothes to see if they were dry. Then she sat down with Jenny, George, and Anna. She looked up at the sky. She smiled.

"I've got mine," she said.

"Already?" asked George.

"Yes. Do you want to hear it?"

"Of course, Mama," said Anna.

"Please," said Jenny.

"I guess so," said George.

"Well, if you really want to." Mrs. Bean stood up. "Here it is."

    When I am on the roof with
    George Bean,
    Jenny Bean,
    and Anna Bean,
    I feel like a queen.

Mrs. Bean sat down. "It's not a great poem," she said, "but it is a true one."

"It is a beautiful poem, Mama," Anna said.

"Very, very beautiful," said Jenny.

"I liked it too," George admitted.

Now, George thought, I am the only Bean in the whole world who does not have a roof poem.


Five Beans on the Roof

"BEANS! YOO-HOO! WHERE are you?"

It was Mr. Bean. He was home from the store. Mr. Bean sold fruit and vegetables.

"Sam," Mrs. Bean called back. "We're up here on the roof."

"The roof?"

Mr. Bean came up the stairs.

"Yes, Sam. We've been saying roof poems. Please come up and say one. It's so much fun."

Mr. Bean stuck his head out the door.

"Yes, Papa," said Anna, "I would love to hear you say a roof poem."

"No, no," said Mr. Bean. "I don't want to say a roof poem. I want to sing one."

Mr. Bean had a good singing voice. He sang along with the radio at night.

"That would be wonderful, Papa," Anna said.

"Oh, yes, Papa, please sing one," Jenny said.

"I want to hear it too," George said. He hoped it would give him an idea.

Mr. Bean came out on the roof.

Jenny said, "Wait, Papa. You want George to announce you?"

George groaned. "Please don't make me do any more announcing."

Mr. Bean smiled. "I will announce myself. Here is Sam Bean singing a song for his beautiful children."

Mr. Bean held out his hands as if they were full of gifts. Then he put one hand over his heart.

"Oh, Sam," said Mrs. Bean.

When Mr. Bean put one hand over his heart, he really meant what he was saying.

Mr. Bean stood taller. He said again, "For my beautiful children." He cleared his throat and sang:

I LOVE your mother!
I LOVE your mother!
I LOVE your mother!
On the roof or off!

"Sam!" said Mrs. Bean.

Her cheeks got pink.

"Not so loud, Papa," said Anna. She glanced around to see if anyone was looking out the window.

George glanced at Frankie's window.

"Why not?" said Mr. Bean. "It is true."

I LOVE your mother! I LOVE—

Mrs. Bean's cheeks got pinker. She jumped up.

"We have been out here long enough," she said. She hid her smile with her hand. "I have

got to get supper."

Mrs. Bean started for the door.

"I will help, love," Mr. Bean said.

"Me too," said Jenny.

"I'll set the table," said Anna.

Mrs. Bean turned. "But, Anna, don't you want to finish your poem?"

"I'll finish it tomorrow."

"George, are you coming?" Jenny asked.

"In a minute," George said.

George felt terrible. He really was the only Bean without a roof poem.

He sat down. He closed his eyes.

Then he tried it with his eyes open. He tried crossing his legs. He tried lying down and looking up at the sky.

Nothing worked.

The sheets blew in the wind. The pigeons cooed. The rabbits hopped.

It started getting dark. George started getting cold.

"George," his mother called.


"Come in now. Supper's almost ready."

"I haven't got my roof poem." George's voice shook a little.

"You can write it tomorrow," Mrs. Bean said. "And, George, would you please bring in the clothes?"

"Mama, I haven't got my poem!"

"Bring in the clothes for your mother, George," Mr. Bean called.

George took the clothes off the line. Then he went downstairs.

He sat at the table with the other Beans.

He ate with the other Beans.

But for the first time in his life, George didn't feel like a Bean himself.


One Bean on the Roof


It was the next day. George was back on the roof. He was alone.

"String! String Bean!"

George looked across the street. Frankie was in the window.

"What you doing?" Frankie yelled.

George did not answer.

"Still writing your po-em?"

George frowned. It was hard to write a poem. It was impossible to write one with Frankie watching him.

"You want to play ball?" Frankie yelled. "Or would you rather write your po-em?"

Mrs. Bean heard Frankie. She called out the window. "He can't play ball, Frankie. It's too close to suppertime." Then she added, "And the word is not po-em. It's poem."

Frankie said, "Yes, Mrs. Bean." Then he went back into his apartment.

Mrs. Bean said to Jenny, "I thought I asked you to go up and get George."

"I did, but he won't come. He wants to finish his roof poem."

"Tell him he can finish it later."

"He won't listen to me, Mama. I told him there were lots of people—important people—who didn't have roof poems. I told him George Washington didn't have a roof poem. I told him Abraham Lincoln didn't have one either."

"And he still wouldn't come down?"

"He said George Washington and Abraham Lincoln didn't need roof poems. He said they weren't Beans."

Mrs. Bean stuck her head out the window again.

"George," she said. "Come down here this minute."

"But, Mama—" George began.

Frankie called from his window. "Mrs. Bean, he doesn't have his po-em yet. I mean, his poem."

Mrs. Bean said, "That's better, Frankie. George, come down this minute."

"Yes, Mama."

George came down the steps and into the kitchen.

"Nothing?" asked Jenny.

"Nothing," said George.

"Well, don't feel bad," Jenny said. "Anna hasn't finished her poem either."

"Oh, yes, I have!" Anna said.

Anna danced into the kitchen. "I have finished! After supper I will read my poem to the family."

Mr. Bean came into the kitchen then too. He said, "I cannot wait until after supper."

"But, Papa—"

"I love all the Bean poems. I have learned them by heart." He smiled at Jenny:

I love the roof, And that's the troof.

He smiled at Mrs. Bean:

    When I am on the roof with
    George Bean,
    Jenny Bean,
    and Anna Bean,
    I feel like a queen.

"And my own." He threw back his head and sang:

I LOVE your mother!
I LOVE your mother!
I LOVE your mother!
On the roof or off


Excerpted from Beans on the Roof by Betsy Byars. Copyright © 1988 Betsy Byars. Excerpted by permission of OPEN ROAD INTEGRATED MEDIA.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Meet the Author

Betsy Byars, a native of Charlotte, North Carolina, received a degree in English from Queens College there. Currently, she lives in Clemson, SC with her husband, a college professor. They have four grown children—one son and three daughters—and five grandchildren. "My own hobbies," Byars says, "are rather quiet. I like to read and do needlework, and I love animals. But my husband has some very interesting hobbies, and through him, I've learned to fly and earned my pilot's license. Together, we fly all over the United States. Since our children are all grown now, we also travel a great deal in Europe, but we take commercial flights because our plane is not really equipped to make transatlantic flights."

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