Caps for Sale

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The cover of Esphyr Slobodkina's classic children's book Caps for Sale
First edition

Caps for Sale: A Tale of a Peddler, Some Monkeys and Their Monkey Business is a classic children's picture book, written and illustrated by Esphyr Slobodkina and published by W. R. Scott in 1940.[1] It's a sly take on the saying, "Monkey see, monkey do."[citation needed]


Based on a folktale, the story follows the life of a mustachioed cap salesman who wears his entire stock of caps on his head; they consist of his own checked cap, then a bunch of grey caps, a bunch of brown caps, a bunch of blue caps and finally a bunch of red caps on the very top. He strolls through towns and villages chanting, "Caps! Caps for sale! Fifty cents a cap!"[2]

One day, the peddler sits down under a tree to take a nap, with all his wares still on his head. When he awakens, all the caps but his own are gone - stolen by a troop of monkeys, who now sit in the tree wearing them. The peddler orders them to return his caps, scolds them, and yells at them, while the monkeys only imitate him. The peddler finally throws down his own cap in disgust - upon which the monkeys throw theirs down as well, right at his feet. He stacks the caps back on his head and strolls back to town, calling, "Caps! Caps for sale! Fifty cents a cap!"[2]


It is Slobodkina's best-known work, as it has sold more than two million copies.[3] Caps for Sale is a popular read-aloud book, because its repetitive text permits children to speak the lines and thus join in the reading experience.

It won a Lewis Carroll Shelf Award in 1958.[4]

Today Caps for Sale is issued by HarperTrophy, a division of HarperCollins.

In addition to book format, the story is also available in audio format, as are other works by Slobodkina.


  1. ^ "Caps for sale" (first edition). Library of Congress Online Catalog ( Retrieved 2015-09-27.
  2. ^ a b Raines, Shirley; Canady, Robert. Story Stretchers: Activities to Expand Children's Favorite Books. p. 158. 
  3. ^ Goldman, Ari (July 27, 2002). "Esphyr Slobodkina, Artist And Author, Is Dead at 93". Retrieved August 1, 2015. 
  4. ^ Patrick, Alisha. "ESPHYR SLOBODKINA (1908-2002)". Sullivan Goss. Archived from the original on July 4, 2012.