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A Fuse #8 Production
Inside A Fuse #8 Production

Fuse 8 n’ Kate: Caps for Sale by Esphyr Slobodkina

CapsForSaleI think this is the clearest case of my pulling out a book for Kate that is well-known amongst children’s librarians and is pretty obscure when you talk to your average layperson on the street. If for no other reason, you should listen to this episode of our podcast to hear Kate’s exclamation of pure confusion and tiny squeaks of bafflement when I mention how well it did on the Top 100 Picture Books Poll (it was #14). So sit back and enjoy as we discuss the logistics of how exactly one would get a blue cap off of this guy, where his fingers suddenly emerge from, how exactly you pronounce, “Tsz, tsz, tsz,” and why anyone, anywhere would put on a hat previously worn by a monkey.

Listen to the whole show here on Soundcloud or download it through iTunes, Stitcher, Google Play, or your preferred method of podcast selection.


Show Notes:

– Show comparison time! Who wore it better? Him:


Or me?


My sole regret (no pun intended) is that the bottoms of my shoes are red like his are.

– So let’s break this down for you. First off, the man has no digits:


– Next, the sudden appearance of thumbs:


– And then finally, appearing at the moment he needs them most, the fingers!


– Next up, sad monkey vs. cheeky monkey:

CapsforSale3      CapsforSale7

– Gentle listeners and readers, I really do want to know. How do you pronounce, “Tsz, tsz, tsz”?

– A monkey feeling a bit sad for the peddler at this point. The fun has by now run its course.


– And voila. Gomez Addams.


– Since this book was influenced by the work of Henri Rousseau, why not check out this picture book biography of him, The Fantastic Jungles of Henri Rousseau? Cover comparison time!



– As promised, here is the link to Why Mathematicians are Hoarding This Special Type of Japanese Chalk.

– Kate’s three recommended board games are Concept:


– Pandemic


– And Sherlock Holmes: Consulting Detective.


– I wasn’t lying. Here’s one of the Mycroft Holmes books by Kareem Abdul-Jabbar


– And last but by far not least, a new podcast! The Newbery Tart podcast has much to recommend it, not least of which is a list of living Newbery Authors. If you, like myself, enjoy podcasts that take deep dives into subjects pertaining to children’s literature, this is a can’t miss listen.


About Elizabeth Bird

Elizabeth Bird is currently the Collection Development Manager of the Evanston Public Library system and a former Materials Specialist for New York Public Library. She has served on Newbery, written for Horn Book, and has done other lovely little things that she'd love to tell you about but that she's sure you'd find more interesting to hear of in person. Her opinions are her own and do not reflect those of EPL, SLJ, or any of the other acronyms you might be able to name. Follow her on Twitter: @fuseeight.


  1. We’re so flattered by the recommendation! Thanks so much 🙂

  2. Hold your teeth ALMOST but not quite together, hold your tongue to the top of your mouth, and force a quick burst of air through your teeth. I…think that’s how I do it. There’s not really a vocalized vowel unless it’s a really short i? But when a room full of preschoolers is doing it, it really does sound like a bunch of little monkeys, and you can still accurately spell it “tsz.”

    • Elizabeth Bird says:

      Oh, I love the physical explanation here. We are so doing this on the next podcast. Thank you!

  3. Not sure if I had heard of this story before becoming a children’s book reviewer. I thought maybe I had, but looking at my review of it, I reference a similar book, “The Hatseller and the Monkeys: A West African Folktale”, by Baba Wagué Diakité, from 1999, which is very similar but involves the hatseller realizing that the monkeys are copying him and outsmarting them by dropping his hat on purpose.

    As for the pronunciation of “Tsz, tsz, tsz,” I can only think of this: . Or maybe it’s pronounced like the sound more commonly spelled as “tsk, tsk, tsk”?

    • Elizabeth Bird says:

      WOW! You actually cited a real folktale! Okay, I concede defeat in this case. You have out librarianed me. Well done!

      • Ha, I figured since you hadn’t mentioned it and it was published in 1999, maybe it was a more recent “folktale” that got into the West African vernacular via “Caps for Sale”. I haven’t done a full review of “The Hatseller and the Monkeys”, and I don’t remember its credentials. I only mentioned it because I kept mentally conflating the two and being disappointed by the ending of “Caps for Sale.”

        I actually find it harder to review folktales and fairy tales, because on one hand I want to limit the review to the illustrations, since the “writer” of the book didn’t write the text, but on the other hand, I have to judge them for their choice of subject matter, and I can’t give a glowing review to something with beautiful illustrations and a terrible story. Like Zelinsky’s “Rumpelstiltskin.” Hate the story, love the art. But is it his fault? That’s a tough one. Kind of yes, kind of no.

  4. I do have a library degree, and have done this story many times in story time (including with interactive flannel board elements!) — but I also have to say that this was a childhood favorite of mine, so some non-librarians (e.g. my parents), at least, have heard of it. Of course, they probably borrowed it from . . . the library. 😉

  5. Two reasons I love Caps for Sale, both sentimental:
    My great-grandmother had a copy in her house. We visited her frequently up until we moved when I was 5 years old. (She also had Millions of Cats.)
    I actually remember Captain Kangaroo reading this book on his show — I hear his voice in my head when I read it. This would have been from when I was very young.