Teaching Economics with Children’s Literature: The Emperor’s Birthday Suit

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Introduction and Summary

The Emperor’s Birthday Suit, written by Cindy Wheeler and illustrated by R.W. Alley, is a book that takes children along a comical journey of an Emperor that wants a new outfit to wear on his birthday during a parade.  He wants it to be extra special so he interviews tailors from all around.  He finally decides on two tailors that promise him a magic suit.  “A suit that fools couldn’t see!  A suit that only wise people could see! That would indeed be a suit like no other!”  The tailors demanded bags of gold and silver coins along the way so they could get paid before anyone caught on to their trickery.  Once they finished, the Emperor put on the invisible suit.  He did not let anyone know that he did not see it because he was afraid people would think that he was a fool.  The parade began and the Emperor was walking around in his t-shirt and underwear.  A young child screamed out the truth and everyone went looking for the crooked tailors.  They were caught just as they were running out of town.  Their punishment was to make the Emperor a new wardrobe of REAL clothes.

Curriculum Connections

The Emperor’s Birthday Suit is a super resource for teachers to help students understand how people are consumers and producers of goods and services (SOL Economics 1.7)  The tailors provided a good for the Emperor, his new birthday suit.  Another content that this book touches on is the use of money in exchange for goods and services. (SOL Economics 2.8)  The Emperor paid the tailors for their good (his birthday suit) with bags of gold coins.  Lastly, while reading this book, students can see that there are consequences for doing wrong and that they must not cheat others. (SOL Civics K.8, 1.10, and 2.10)

Additional Resources

  • Lesson plan idea where everyone in the class gets a different job and gets paid for it with pretend money
  • Online PowerPoint presentation on economics, specifically teaching goods and services
  • Interactive activity that allows children to identify what or who provides a good or a service.

General Information
Book: The Emperor’s Birthday Suit
Author: Cindy Wheeler
Illustrator: R. W. Alley
Publisher: Random House Inc.
Publication Date: 1996
Pages: 48
Grade Range: K-3
ISBN: 0679874240