Author/Illustrator: Esphyr slobodkina
Publisher: W.R. Scott, 1940
Themes: peddler, monkeys, caps
Opening: Once there was a peddler who sold caps. But he was not like an ordinary peddler carrying his wares on his back. he carried them on top of his head.
Summary: (from my library’s catalog) A band of mischievous monkeys steals every one of a peddler’s caps while he takes a nap under a tree.
I picked this book because: I was inspired to give a big nod, an entire spread!, to it in my upcoming picture book, NOT ALL SHEEP ARE BORING!. Since it releases in 4 weeks I wanted to explore why the book stands as a strong childhood memory. Aesthetically the limited palette, so close to the primary colors, is pleasing and also makes it easy for kids to help count the hats – because they will want to! Perspectives are simple and easy for the very young to read. The opening lines may not be exciting for an adult, but as a kid this is how I learned what a peddler is, and carrying caps on his head for no apparent reason immediately makes him a friend! By the third page we are made aware of the problem – no buyers. After he rests by the tree the pacing has slowed enough for the reader to feel he is refreshed too, but the short sentences that follow create a new and frantic pace, and we feel his sense of worry too. “No caps.” And “then he looked up into the tree.” The reader holds their breath, “And what do you think he saw?” And is rewarded with a big spread of a tree loaded with silly monkeys donning caps! The peddler tries and tries to get them to give the caps back, with his frustration reaching a peak he throws his own cap down and the solution seems so easy! Why didn’t we remember? Monkey see, monkey do! Sooo satisfying! And we get to count the caps again to make sure they’re all there! Even now I still want to read it again!
Resources/activities: read more classics and decide why you think they have stood the test of time.
For more Perfect Picture Book Friday picks with teacher/parent resources, check out the list on Susanna Hill’s blog HERE.