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Remembering a Classic Children’s Book: Caps for Sale

October 15, 2012

Caps for Sale and Nina Cavender’s handmade chair, which tells the story in the book.

By Nina Cavender

I remember reading this book again, and again, and again with my mother. I loved this book so much, I would try to reenact it whenever it was read. I loved it so much, my grandmother had a professional wood carver make me a chair with the whole story hand-painted on it.

Now you’re all thinking, “What’s the book?!” It’s Caps for Sale by Esphyr Slobodkina. It’s a very simple story, but that is what makes it great.

The story starts by talking about the cap peddler’s many caps: his brown caps, red caps, and grey caps, all balanced carefully on top of his own checked cap.

When one day he can’t seem to sell any of his caps, calling the famous phrase “Caps! Caps for sale! Fifty cents a cap!”, the peddler decides to stop under a tree to rest. This seemingly harmless tree turns out to be a tree full of mischievous monkeys, who steal the peddlers caps! My inner child is gasping at the sheer thought!

The mischievous monkeys taunt the poor peddler until he tricks the monkeys into giving his caps back… But I don’t want to give anything away.

When I’m looking back and remembering my love for the monkeys and the peddler, I remember trying to become the peddler myself. As my mother would read it I would walk around my room gathering pillows and various trinkets, to attempt to balance on my head (rather then getting into bed). I don’t think I was ever as successful with my balancing act as the cap peddler himself was, but it certainly instilled a memory in me.

Before writing this blog post, I did a little research to refresh my memory about the story, and I ran across this video.

Even across the Atlantic Ocean, a father is making sure his kids hear this imaginative Russian folktale, because it bonds the parent and child together. For me, it was through my silliness: trying to imitate the very balanced cap salesman and amusing my mother whilst doing so. For this soldier, it’s to make sure his kids can sleep with him not there.

It’s a beautiful thing, the power of a bedtime story, and this should certainly be one on every child’s nightstand.

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