A FEW OTHER EVENTS FOR
AUGUST 11:

  • Happy birthday George Sullivan (Helen Keller: Her Life in Pictures), Joanna Cole (The Magic School Bus series), and Sally Keehn (I Am Regina, The First Horse I See).
  • It’s the birth date of Enid Blyton (1897-1968), Famous Five series, and Steven Kroll (1941-2011), Jungle Bullies, The Biggest Pumpkin Ever.
  • In 1929, Babe Ruth becomes the first baseball player to hit 500 home runs. Read Home Run: The Story of Babe Ruth by Robert Burleigh, illustrated by Mike Wimmer, and Cam Jansen and the Mystery of the Babe Ruth Baseball by David A. Adler.
  • The first prisoners arrive at Alcatraz Island in 1934. Read Children Of Alcatraz: Growing Up on the Rock by Claire Rudolph Murphy and Al Capone Does My Shirts by Gennifer Choldenko.

On August 11, 1908, Don Freeman was born in San Diego, California. Freeman showed early skills as both a musician and an artist. In the late twenties he moved to New York City to make a living. He arrived a few days before the stock market crash and always carried a guilt complex about the event. Of course, work became hard to find. While playing jazz trumpet at music gigs, he took lessons with John Sloan at the Art Students League and drew character sketches wherever he went. One night on the subway, Don, who had been sketching, left his trumpet on the car. He always said that was the night he decided he would stick to drawing. Work for the WPA helped sustain Freeman through the worst of economic times.

Then in the fifties, with help from his wife, Lydia, Freeman began to fashion children’s books for their son Roy—Pet of the Met, Norman the Doorman, and Mop Top. Freeman started a book based on his son’s nickname “Corduroy” called Corduroy, the Inferior Decorator, the story of a young boy who drove his parents nuts by painting the walls of their apartment. But several years later Freeman began to develop a story about a character who wanders around a department store at night. He was trying to explore the difference between the luxury of the store and the simple life that most people live. Then the image of a stuffed bear, wearing corduroy overalls and missing a button, came into Freeman’s mind, and he knew he had the character he’d been looking for.  The 40th anniversary editon of Corduroy contains facsimiles of original publishing materials — the manuscript, early sketches, and correspondence between Don Freeman and his editor Annis Duff.  More information about Don Freeman’s publishing history can be found on a website run by his son Roy Freeman.

In this heartwarming story, no one wants to buy Corduroy the bear from the department store because his overalls are missing a button. So one night he goes hunting around the store for one. He doesn’t find it, but discovers lots of other exciting things outside the toy department. Fortunately, a young girl named Lisa does want to buy Corduroy and provides him with both a home and a button. This story is perfectly pitched for a four- or five-year-old point of view. Corduroy experiences everything in an excited and wonderful way. As he climbs onto the escalator he exclaims, “Could this be a mountain? . . . I’ve always wanted to climb a mountain.”

As art director of Viking, Barbara Hennessy had the privilege of working with Freeman on A Pocket for Corduroy. She was always amazed that Freeman—a large man, full of life, energy, enthusiasm, and warmth—could contain himself enough to work in scratchboard, a technique that requires patience and precision. Characters often serve as alter egos: Don, according to Barbara, was much like Corduroy; and his wife, Lydia, exactly like the lovely and charming Lisa. Barbara says, the Corduroy stories have “a sense of discovery, humor, adventure, and friendship. Everything you hope that life will bring. The books about Corduroy satisfy readers completely on an emotional level.”

Happy birthday to Don Freeman. May Corduroy and A Pocket for Corduroy bring joy and happiness to children for generations to come.

Here’s a page from Corduroy:

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Originally posted August 11, 2011. Updated for .

Tags: Bedtime, Teddy Bears, Toys
Instructional materials from TeachingBooks.net for Corduroy
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COMMENTS

  1. Sydnee says:

    This book was my brother’s favorite bedtime story growing up, we read it to our stuffed animals every time we played school! Thanks for including it in the almanac.

  2. Lisa B.Harvey says:

    I love this book although I never knew it as a child. It is a favorite of mine as it brings to life the quintessential stuffed animal, the teddy bear. It is so heart warming and endearing.

    I am adding it to my list of “must have books” for my great niece’s growing library.

    Thank you for reminding me of this sweet book.

  3. G.Perry says:

    I’ve seen this title but I haven’t read it. It sounds like something I’ll love.

    Corduroy certainly reminds me of something that happened one day when I was looking at all my daughter’s stuffed animal collection We got talking about the different characters such as Pooh, etc. when I unwittingly made a comment that I had never had a teddy bear. I said it so low, almost a whisper, that I didn’t realize she even heard me.

    The next Christmas, I received the most amazing teddy bear I’ve ever seen, from my daughter.

    “Some people care too much. I think it’s called love.”
    — A.A. Milne (Winnie-the-Pooh)

  4. Anita says:

    Thanks everyone for the comments. Gordon: What a wonderful story — thank you for sharing it.

  5. Diane says:

    Anita,
    Thanks for the background information about Don Freeman. This summer I have been reading some of the Caldecott Honor books that I have not read only to discover Don Freeman’s wonderful book Fly High Fly Low (a 1958 Caldecott honor). This story of two pidgeons, whose nest was built in the letter B from BAY HOTEL and moved across the city of San Francisco only to be used for BLUMZ BAKERY, was so wonderfully illustrated that I ordered my own copy. This particular story and artwork reminded me of Bill Peet’s wonderful animal stories. I look forward to reading this book aloud to first grade students this fall.

  6. Momo says:

    I read this to my kindergarten children every year. I have the toy with his extra button hidden behind his strap, the DVD which is totally fabulous! And in July in NYC I bought a Corduroy T shirt. This is a deceptive little story with a gentle message about love and perseverance. I am sure you can tell I am a major fan!

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