2008 was the fortieth anniversary of this teddy bear tale, one of the classic books for children. Most grandparents and parents will enjoy introducing the younger generation to Corduroy, especially if they read the book themselves as children. Most children will warm up to Corduroy, but a few may find it less than exciting. The writing is serviceable but prosy, especially to those used to the pyrotechnics of Dr. Seuss and his ilk.
The Story of Corduroy
Corduroy is the story of a teddy bear who lives in a department store but is never bought. One day a little girl wants to buy him, but her mother points out that he is missing one of the buttons on his overalls. That night he decides to explore the department store in search of a button. He doesn't find a button, but the next day the little girl returns, having scraped up enough money to buy him and having found a replacement for his missing button.
This simple story has several admirable qualities, the most important being the theme that even the flawed are worthy of love. The little girl in the story is African-American, and that was unusual in mainstream literature forty years ago. The story also taps into the almost universal fantasy about being in a department store after it closes.
The Story of the Artist
2008 was also the centennial of Don Freeman's birth. Freeman came to New York to study art, but supported himself by playing his trumpet.
After losing his instrument on the subway, he was forced to get serious about his art. His drawings were mainly of the theater and New York street scenes until he was solicited to illustrate a children's book. Authoring his own books followed. The route that Freeman took before giving us Corduroy was almost as meandering as the route that Corduroy takes through the department store!
Corduroy is available in a number of different editions, including audio and Kindle versions. Freeman published a sequel, A Pocket for Corduroy, but it never became as popular as the original. After Freeman's death, children's author B. G. Hennessy published another sequel.
A stuffed Corduroy is also available, but the little bear has not been the focus of a merchandising blitz like so many characters in children's books. And that's a good thing. There have also been media adaptations, but most aficionados believe that Corduroy belongs where he started out -- between the pages of a book.
Corduroy has been honored as one of the best 100 children's books by organizations such as the National Education Association and the School Library Journal.
Don Freeman came to New York to study art, but supported himself by playing the trumpet. One day as rode the subway, engrossed in a sketch he was working on, his trumpet was stolen. That put the pressure on him to start earning a living with his art. He began making sketches of Broadway shows for two New York newspapers. He started writing and illustrating children's books after he married and had a son. His wife was credited with co-writing some of his early books.
Freeman called his son Roy "Corduroy" because he frequently wore overalls of corduroy. Also, he had previously written a book called Corduroy, the Inferior Decorator, about a little boy who incessantly paints on the walls of his home, driving his parents crazy. Roy Freeman tells these and other stories about his father on the website he maintains in his father's memory.
Why Especially Suited for Reading With Grandchildren
Many grandparents will have memories of reading Corduroy to their own children. Sharing that memory with your grandchildren can make reading this story special for everyone. This simple picture book is best suited for preschoolers and school-age grandchildren from 5 to 9, although older grandchildren may enjoy a nostalgic reading now and then.