Esphyr Slobodkina (the name is pronounced ess-FEER sloh-BOD-kee-nah) was born in the Siberian town of Chelyabinsk on Sept. 22, 1908. She immigrated to the United States on a student visa at the age of 29 and enrolled at the National Academy of Design, in New York City. In the 1930s she began work painting. Esphyr was a founding member of the American Abstract Artists, which began amid controversy in 1936. Slobodkina illustrated many children's stories by other authors and also wrote her own. She was a leader of the abstract movement in the United States from the 1930s until her death at age 93 in July 2002.
Caps for Sale was first published in 1938. Since then it has sold more than two million copies. Today it is considered a children's book classic as generation after generation pass the story along to new readers. In sales it ranks with such classics as Good Night Moon, and it won a Lewis Carroll Shelf Award in 1958.
Writing children's books was a responsibility that Esphyr took seriously. In her memoir she wrote: "The verbal patterns and the patterns of behavior we present to children in these lighthearted confections are likely to influence them for the rest of their lives. These aesthetic impressions, just like the moral teachings of early childhood, remain indelible."
Slobodkina's works have received high acclaim. Her paintings, sculptures and literary works are part of the collections of The Metropolitan Museum, NY; The National Gallery in Washington, D.C; The Smithsonian; The Hecksher Museum, L.I., NY (where she has a permanent wing); The Whitney Museum, NY; The Wadsworth Museum, Hartford, CT; The Northeast Children's Literature Collection, Thomas J. Dodd Research Center, University of Connecticut, Storrs, CT; and more.
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