Essays & Papers

Essay for Younger Readers

This essay is designed for adolescents, although adults will find it informative. The Story of Esphyr Slobodkina and Caps for Sale includes a synopsis on Slobodkina’s life, with musings on the peddler from her childhood and the impact he had on her life.

It includes image demonstrations of Slobodkina’s unique approach to children’s book illustration using cut-paper-collage technique.

By Leonard S. Marcus, author and expert on English language children's literature

Leonard Marcus’ expertise as a Children's book historian has immersed him in critical exploration of early 20th century American children’s book authors and illustrators.

In this essay Marcus examines Slobodkina’s unique approach to children’s book illustrations and the lasting impact she had on the modern children’s book. Marcus discovered that Slobodkina was the first illustrator to render an American picture book using cut-paper collage.

By Joann Conrad, professor of Anthropology and Folklore at California State University

In this essay Conrad explores the power of Caps for Sale, easily recognized in modern society, to evoke specific functional reactions in the public through its iconic depictions of the Peddler and the monkeys. Influences have spread to social media, business marketing, and subtle stimulus.

In addition, Conrad, a professor of Anthropology and Folklore at California State University, discusses Slobodkina’s early life and development, many of Slobodkina’s lesser known storybooks and characters, and includes numerous images of rarely seen illustrations housed at the University of Connecticut's Dodd Research Center.

By Antonia Markiet, Chief Editor at Harper Collins Children’s Publishers

Through this essay we glimpse the working relationship fostered by Slobodkina toward her associates. Antonia Markiet, senior executive editor at HarperCollins Children's Books, reveals with brevity, the commanding but humor-filled personality of the artist.

In addition to Esphyr Slobodkina, Markiet has worked with Shel Silverstein, David Wiesner, Chris Van Allsburg, Maurice Sendak, and Eric Carle.

by Sandra Kraskin, PhD, Former Director of Baruch’s Sidney Mishkin Gallery 1989-2018

This essay presents an in-depth examination of Esphyr Slobodkina’s multifaceted career with emphasis on her contribution to American Abstract Art. Sandra Kraskin wrote her thesis on Slobodkina’s first husband Ilya Bolotowsky. Kraskin’s in-depth research led her to uncover a myriad of facts, including Bolotowsky’s impact on Slobodkina’s early career, but, more importantly, Slobodkina’s independent development as an instrumental innovator in American Art.

Kraskin covers the social and environmental influences that steered Slobodkina toward collaboration with author Margaret Wise Brown and American children’s book illustration and publication.

by Ann Marie Mulhearn Sayer

This essay offers a vivid and inspiring look at Slobodkina’s personal life. It includes numerous quotes and reminiscences by Slobodkina related by her associate and close friend Ann Marie Mulhearn Sayer.

The text discloses the challenges Slobodkina faced as a war refugee, emigrant, and woman in an art world dominated by men, and emphasizes the resilience and fortitude Slobodkina applied to overcome all hindrances and establish herself as a person-of-note, forever influencing the American art scene.

Meet the Author

These videos feature Esphyr Slobodkina

Interview with ABC

Art McFarland from ABC news Long Island interviews Esphyr Slobodkina (age 92) at the Great Neck Art Center, NY during a retrospective exhibition of her art. In this video McFarland speaks to her about her children’s book classic Caps for Sale.

When asked why Slobodkina wrote about monkeys, Slobodkina replies, “Everybody loves monkeys, unless, of course, you have to live with them.

Excerpt 1 from American Abstraction 1930 -1945

Slobodkina relates how Artist Ilya Bolotowsky influenced her work; conversation of art was way above her understanding of how in the early years; Bolotowsky presented her to a group of artists he was organizing to form an abstract artist group and wanted her to belong to it. Slobodkina on fashion: “Dressmaking was not a trade, it was always an art.”

“Inspiration: there is no such thing as inspiration, for me it is concentration, dedication, and interest in your work.”

Excerpt 2 from American Abstraction 1930 -1945

Slobodkina speaks about her transition to abstract art followed by a portfolio: slide show of works.

Many recognize Esphyr Slobodkina as the author and illustrator of the beloved children’s tale Caps for Sale. However, Slobodkina produced 22 children’s books during her lifetime (either as author or illustrator or both).