More About the Author
Esphyr Slobodkina (the name is pronounced ess-FEER sloh-BOD-kee-nah) was born in the Siberian town of Chelyabinsk on Sept. 22, 1908. Esphyr immigrated to the United States on a student visa at the age of 29. She enrolled at the National Academy of Design, NYC, and in the 1930s, she worked painting lamp shades and soon after murals for the WPA. Esphyr was a founding member of the American Abstract Artists, which began amid controversy in 1936. In 1937 Slobodkina met the children's author Margaret Wise Brown. In an effort to find work as an illustrator, Slobodkina wrote and illustrated a story with collage called Mary And The Poodies to present to Brown. This began a new career for Slobodkina, who illustrated many children's stories for Ms. Brown (including Sleepy ABCs and the Big and Little series) while still continuing her work as an abstract artist. In her autobiography, (portions available through this web-site) Ms. Slobodkina wrote, "When Margaret died, I was left without a writer, and since she always insisted that she liked the way I told my stories, I took a deep breath and began to send them to my agent." Ms. Slobodkina took her responsibility as a children's book author seriously. In her memoir she wrote: "The verbal patterns and the patterns of behavior we present to children in these lighthearted confections are likely to influence them for the rest of their lives. These aesthetic impressions, just like the moral teachings of early childhood, remain indelible." Caps for Sale was first published in 1938. Since then it has sold more than two million copies. Today it is considered a children's book classic as generation after generation pass the story along to new readers. In sales it ranks with such classics as Good Night Moon, according to Publisher's Weekly. Caps for Sale, won a Lewis Carroll Shelf Award in 1958 and is memorialized in a painting by Ms. Slobodkina on permanent exhibition in the West Hartford Library, CT. Ms. Slobodkina wrote and illustrated numerous other books, including Mary and The Poodies (1937), The Wonderful Feast, (1955), The Clock (1956), The Long Island Ducklings (1961), and Pezzo the Peddler and the Circus Elephant, which was first published in 1967 and was reissued in 2002 as Circus Caps for Sale, to name a few. At the age of 88, Esphyr's primary focus became overseeing the production of musical storybook cassettes of all twenty of her children's books. At age 90, Esphyr designed a mini museum in Glen Head, Long Island, NY (through her Slobodkina Foundation) as a place where guests can visit and view more than 200 works of art, her handmade dolls and jewelry, as well as her complete collection of children's storybooks, including some original illustrations. Famed artist and author Esphyr Slobodkina was a leader of the abstract movement in the United States from the 1930s until her death at age 93 in July 2002. Slobodkina's works have received high acclaim. Her paintings, sculptures and literary works are part of the collections of The Metropolitan Museum, NY; The National Gallery in Washington, D.C; The Smithsonian; The Hecksher Museum, L.I., NY (where she has a permanent wing); The Whitney Museum, NY; The Wadsworth Museum, Hartford, CT; The Northeast Children's Literature Collection, Thomas J. Dodd Research Center, University of Connecticut, Storrs, CT; and more.