My college boy is home this week. So far his spring break has been spent fighting a doozy of a virus, lying about feverish and wan. Perhaps there is slight comfort in Mom making tea and soup, verses the non-hominess of the dorm, I don’t know. He seems grateful. I asked if he wanted something to read and went to his bookshelves to see if there was something light a98nd fun — an old favorite, perhaps — to while away the languishing hours on the couch.
I’d imagined a novel he could lose himself in—Swallows & Amazons or Harry Potter, maybe, but I found myself flipping through picture books. Most of the picture books are in my office these days, but some of the extra special ones are kept on each of the kiddos’ bookshelves. Caps for Sale: The Tale of a Peddler, Some Monkeys and Their Monkey Business by Esphyr Slobodkina is one such picture book for #1 Son.
Goodness how he loved that book when he was a little boy! For awhile we had it perpetually checked out from the library. I renewed and renewed until I could renew no more, then I found a sympathetic librarian who checked it back in and let me check it right back out. She did this for us twice. Then I lost my nerve to ask for such special favors yet again and I bought the book.
I bet we read that book every day for over a year. It was before he was really talking — he called monkeys key-keys and he thought they were hilarious. He’d shake his finger, just like the peddler in absolute delight. “You monkeys, you! You give me back my caps!” Then he’d shake both hands, again just like the peddler; then kick one foot against the couch when the peddler stamped his foot, and both feet when the peddler stamped both feet. Each time he’d make the monkey reply “Tsz, tsz, tsz!” as well.
He liked to pile layers of hats (or shirts or socks) on his head like the peddler stacked his caps, and he loved to throw them on the ground, which is how the peddler eventually gets the monkeys to give back the caps they’ve stolen from his napping head. I watched him re-enact the entire book once when he was supposed to be taking a nap.
He learned sorting as he noticed the different colors and patterns of the caps and how the peddler stacked them up to take his inventory under the tree. He did this with playdough disk. “Caps!” he’d say when he made tall columns of red circles, blue circles, and yellow circles. I remember thinking this was uncommonly brilliant for an under two-year-old.
I offered to read it to him this afternoon. He declined, but the smile was wide, if still weary, when I showed him the book. I left it next to the couch, just in case he starts to feel better and wants to revisit it.