Circus Caps for Sale

Originally written and illustrated in 1967 and titled Pezzo the Peddler and the Circus Elephant, the story went out of print in the 1980s.

Working with her protégé Ann Marie Mulhearn Sayer, Slobodkina slightly modernized the text and Harper Collins Publishers made the decision to fully colorize the illustrations which had originally been done using a three color system dominant in books of the 1950s and 1960s.

Today, it is considered a prequel or “book one” in the Caps for Sale series.

In 1970, Esphyr Slobodkina completed an 8’ x 60’ collage mural in three scenes based on her Peddler/Circus book. The 12-panel collage was initially begun in her New York studio. Slobodkina completed the work on-site for the University of Southern Mississippi, Hattiesburg, MI. It is part of the de Grummond Children's Literature Collection.

Mural of the Peddler & Circus


The story places the Peddler and his wares in the middle of a circus procession at the county fair then center stage. A curious elephant, who often plays tricks with the crowd, reaches for the Peddler’s caps and they go flying in every direction. The story relates how the Peddler retrieves the caps and what happens next.

Children learn that even when things seem to go all wrong, the outcome can lead to a happy ending.


"These stories show that in the hands of an artist, the world can be a truly enchanting place." - City Parent

"Slobodkina's drawing style is timeless, making Circus Caps for Sale a real generation-to-generation treasure." - Fort Worth Star-Telegram

Lesson Plans for Circus Caps for Sale


PK-09 - Who, What, Where
Students can be pushed to use more complex language and sentence structure when describing what they see on the page.


K-08 - Find the Words I Know
This lesson can be increased in complexity by using different pages from the book that contain more advanced sentence structure and vocabulary.

K-09 - What Does the Illustration Say?
This lesson can be replicated or increased in complexity using other illustrations from the story.

First Grade

GR1-08 - There's Nobody Else Like You
The book Circus Caps for Sale can be read independently by students or as a large group. Students who struggle with writing can share their thinking verbally with the teacher or classmates or can stick to a visual representation of their unique traits.

GR1-09 - Class Circus!
This lesson is designed to help each student find a unique role to fill in the classroom. It is an offshoot of Lesson #8 in which students identify what makes them unique.

Second Grade

GR2-08 - Practice Makes Perfect
For this lesson, a paragraph is considered to be 4 or 5 related sentences. The complexity can be shifted accordingly for more advanced students or students who struggle with writing.

GR2-09 - Lucky Item
This lesson is designed to be an extended project during which students are encouraged to revisit and revise their work.