Caps for Sale

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Caps for Sale
The cover of a late edition of Caps for Sale.
AuthorEsphyr Slobodkina
IllustratorEsphyr Slobodkina
Cover artistEsphyr Slobodkina
CountryUnited States
GenreChildren's literature
PublisherW. R. Scott
Publication date
Media typePrint

Caps for Sale: A Tale of a Peddler, Some Monkeys and Their Monkey Business is a children's picture book, written and illustrated by Esphyr Slobodkina and published by W. R. Scott in 1940.[1]


Based on a folktale, the story follows a mustachioed cap selling street vendor (unnamed in the book, he is known as Pezzo in the sequel Circus Caps for Sale) who wears his entire stock of caps on his head. When the peddler takes a nap under a tree, a troupe of monkeys steal all the caps but his own and put them on. The peddler tries in vain to get the monkeys to return the caps, but they only imitate his actions. Finally he throws his own cap on the ground in disgust and walks away, causing the monkeys to do the same. The peddler collects the caps off the ground and goes on his way.[2]


It is Slobodkina's best-known work, and 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]


The earliest known account of the story may be found in The Wilmington Centinel published in Wilmington, North Carolina January 8, 1789.[5] "According to the following relation from a person just returned from the Labrador coast, the imitative faculty in monkeys seems to exceed every thing short of human. –A sailor having a number of red woolen caps, &c to dispose of among the natives, went on shore for that purpose ; his way to a settlement lying through a woods very copiously inhabited by the species abovementioned, and it being mid day, put a cap on his head, and laying the others by his side, he determined upon a little repose under the shade of a plantain tree. To his utter astonishment, when he awoke, from the specimen he had given his imitative observers of the use of his caps, he beheld a number of them upon the heads of the monkeys on the trees, round about him, while the wearers were chattering in an unusual manner. Finding every attempt to regain them fruitless , he at length in a fit of rage and disappointment, and under the supposition the one he retained was not worth taking away, &c. pulled the same from his head, and throwing it upon the ground exclaimed ---“ here d—n you, take it among ye,” which he had no sooner done, than to his great surprise, the observant monkeys did the same, by which means he regained the greatest part of his property."


Slobodkina published a sequel, Pezzo the Peddler and the Circus Elephant, in 1967, twenty-seven years after the publication of Caps for Sale. It was reissued in 2002,[6] after Slobodkina's death, as Circus Caps for Sale. A direct sequel bringing back the monkeys, More Caps for Sale, was published in 2015, credited jointly to Slobodkina and her long time personal assistant Ann Marie Mulhearn Sayer. This was followed by Caps for Sale and the Mindful Monkeys in 2017. The illustrations for the latter two books were created by scanning and editing images from Slobodkina's original artwork.[7]

Other media[edit]

Caps for Sale was included as one of five stories on the 1986 VHS release Five Stories for the Very Young from Weston Woods Studios, animated using illustrations from the book.[8] A remake was released on Weston Woods's 2007 collection Picture Book Classics on DVD, narrated by Rex Robbins.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Caps for Sale" (first edition). Library of Congress Online Catalog ( Retrieved 2020-10-29.
  2. ^ Raines, Shirley; Canady, Robert (1989). Story Stretchers: Activities to Expand Children's Favorite Books. p. 158. ISBN 9780876591192.
  3. ^ Goldman, Ari (July 27, 2002). "Esphyr Slobodkina, Artist And Author, Is Dead at 93". The New York Times. Retrieved August 1, 2015.
  4. ^ Patrick, Alisha. "ESPHYR SLOBODKINA (1908-2002)". Sullivan Goss. Archived from the original on July 4, 2012. Retrieved August 1, 2015.
  5. ^ "The Wilmington Centinel, and General Advertiser (Wilmington, N.C.)(1789)State Archives of North Carolina".
  6. ^ copyright 2002 isbn 0-06-029655
  7. ^ Slobodkina, Esphyr; Sayer, Ann Marie Mulhearn (2004). "About the Authors". More Caps for Sale.
  8. ^ Five stories for the very young. WorldCat. OCLC 14230139. Retrieved 23 May 2020.