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Caps for Sale: A Tale of a Peddler, Some Monkeys, and Their Monkey Business Paperback – June 30, 1968

454 customer reviews
Book 1 of 2 in the Caps for sale Series

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Editorial Reviews Review

Subtitled A Tale of a Peddler, Some Monkeys and Their Monkey Business, this absurd and very simple story has become a classic, selling hundreds of thousands of copies since its first publication in 1940. A peddler walks around selling caps from a tall, tottering pile on his head. Unable to sell a single cap one morning, he walks out into the countryside, sits down under a tree, checks that all the caps are in place, and falls asleep. When he wakes up, the caps are gone--and the tree is full of cap-wearing monkeys. His attempts to get the caps back generate the kind of repetitive rhythm that 3- and 4-year-olds will adore. (Preschool and older) --Richard Farr --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.


"From an old folk tale [the author] has fashioned this bright picture book, infusing it with a humor which seems to have sprung from her own hearty enjoyment of the troubles of a peddler with a abnd of monkeys."" --The New York Times --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 43 pages
  • Publisher: Scholastic Paperbacks (June 30, 1968)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0064431436
  • ISBN-13: 978-0590410809
  • ASIN: 0590410806
  • Product Dimensions: 9.8 x 7.7 x 0.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 5.6 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (454 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,630,946 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

Format: Board book
The back of this book promises "the classic tale of a peddler, some monkeys and their monkey business."

And I love the classic tale, and so do my kids, for its sweet innocent text, its rhythmic repetitions and the unique character and palette of its illustrations. All of which are preserved here except... as I discovered when I sat down to read this to a group of kids at circle time... the delightful text. Oh, and some of the pictures.

I would definitely not call it the SAME BOOK since the text is different, and I think it's mighty sneaky of the publisher (HarperFestival) to hint that you're getting "the classic tale" when what you're getting is some editorial department's cut-n-slash decisions about what makes the book tick.

What I like about this book is the repetition of the order of the hats, which kids enjoy as well, but one full repeat is missing, and another has been pared down slightly. Some of the text has been skipped - the entire second page - and elsewhere, it's paraphrased for brevity.

Perhaps if you've never read the original, you'll enjoy this book. For me, used to the rhythms and humour of the original, this board book version is woefully lacking.

Luckily, our version is from the library, so all I have to do is give it back - no returns processing necessary. I hope others will learn from my mistake before it ends up costing them the $9/$12 (in Canada), plus shipping, that they'd have to pay to get this book home. And the disappointment of knowing it's not the "classic tale" at all.
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41 of 44 people found the following review helpful By Alyssa A. Lappen VINE VOICE on September 8, 2001
Format: Paperback
This adorable story is simple enough to read to infants under the age of one. By the time they are two, children can easily memorize it and begin to distinguish words on the page.
It is particularly delightful for young children, who can identify both with the peddler's nap and his anger at the monkeys in a tree, who have stolen his caps.
Altogether, the story is pure joy. Your copy is sure to wear out before your children reach the age of five, as ours did. Alyssa A. Lappen
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27 of 29 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on June 8, 2001
Format: Paperback
Caps For Sale is a wonderful tale that students love to read. It is an ideal book for shared reading and offers opportunities for students to learn about the structure of a good story. Slobodkina's story of a peddler trying to sell his wares in a small town has a clear beginning, middle, and end. You need this one if you would like children to learn how to make predictions, recognize patterns, sequence events, and notice setting elements. This book is a "must have" classic in any K and 1st grade classroom.
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16 of 16 people found the following review helpful By Rendarella on March 9, 2011
Format: Board book Verified Purchase
I purchased this board book for my 2-year-old daughter who had fallen in LOVE with my mother's 1966 paperback edition, in an interest to preserve its delicate pages.

You can imagine my disappointment as I read it to her, discovering that important phrases, entire pages, and key details were left out of this edition, especially the rhythmic phrasing, and some of the low points of the book, completely flattening what had been a dynamic and suspenseful story. Even she noticed the difference and asked for the old book back.

I would love to be able to get a new copy of the original story, however this is not it.
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25 of 28 people found the following review helpful By E. R. Bird HALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWER on January 10, 2004
Format: Paperback
A folktale fastforwarded to 1940. In this fine lighthearted little yarn, author Esphyr Slobodkina reinvigorates the folk tradition with a marvelous story. In it, a peddler looses his hats to a tree of 16 chattering monkeys and must find a way to get them back. There is no overwhelming complexity in the text of this tale, but sixty-some years after its original publication there is still great charm in its words. Accompanying the staid story is a series of brightly colored illustrations. The peddler seen here is not your classic workaday schmoe in dirty clothes and a five-o-clock shadow. He is prim and pristine. With a moustache like Hercule Poirot's, a smart black suit, and a pair of cheerful red spats he is a picture of competence and sterility. Which makes his eventual foot-stomping, fist-shaking temper tantrum at the mischievous monkeys all the more amusing. I was particularly taken with the monkeys response to the peddler's demands. All they say is, "Tsz, tsz, tsz". Who knew we shared this phrase with our simian kin? Slobodkina has created a precise little tale. Though she never says it, sixteen caps sit atop the peddler's head (his preferred method of peddling his wares, doncha know) and sixteen monkey pinch them. The combination of bright colors, funny monkeys, and the dapper little peddler man make this a real treasure of 1940s children's literature.
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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful By reedeetee on July 10, 2005
Format: Paperback
When I was a child in the early '60s, Captain Kangaroo (remember him?) would read different books on his TV program. That was my introduction to Caps For Sale. I thought I'd come across the NEXT GREAT BOOK, not knowing that it was already over twenty years old when I'd heard it. Back then, I'd always marvelled at how the monkeys stole every cap EXCEPT the peddler's own checkered one. Now my little four year old genius asks the same question, except it's more in the line of: "Mom, didn't the monkeys like the checked cap?" Or, "Mom, how did they have enough monkeys for all the caps except the checked one?" I am amazed at the concepts this story can bring about. Counting (the caps in each group), sorting (the caps by color), how 'simple' the monkeys were ("Mom, didn't they know that the caps would fall?"). And here I thought it was just the NEXT GREAT BOOK (at least, in my six year old mind). Having my kids gave me the perfect 'excuse' to have this book as an adult ;-)
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