Study Guide

Corduroy

By Don Freeman

Corduroy Introduction

If you've stumbled upon this guide in the middle of an online shopping spree for corduroy pants, we regret to inform you that you're in the wrong place.

However, if you're looking for a guide to Don Freeman's classic children's book, pull up a chair and stay a while.

We realize there's not a lot of overlap between the people who will read this guide and the target audience for the book itself, given that the target audience is generally more concerned with figuring out yet another way to avoid eating lima beans than the theme of perseverance in a beloved story. That said, we hope this guide will be a valuable resource for teachers, parents, and anyone else who wants to dig a little deeper into this seemingly simple story.

Corduroy was written and illustrated by Don Freeman, and it first hit bookshelves all the way back in 1968. That year, Apollo 8 became the first manned spacecraft to orbit the moon, Mel Brooks directed his first film, and The Beatles released "Hey Jude," their first single from their own record label.

For all intents and purposes, a sweet story about teddy bear's midnight escapades in a department store shouldn't have been that groundbreaking—but it was. Corduroy was one of the first mainstream children's books to feature a Black girl as its heroine.

It was published on the tail end of the civil rights movement, just six years after author Ezra Jack Keats broke the "color barrier" in children's books with his story The Snowy Day. Books with minority characters were still rare, but Corduroy and Lisa's innocent, heartwarming story transcended race and appealed to everyone.

Of course, when a preschooler asks their grandma to read Corduroy for the eighteenth time in a row, we're pretty sure they're not concerned with the societal ramifications of the story. This book has everything little kids love: a cuddly hero, a crazy adventure, and—spoiler alert—a happy ending.

Did we mention it's set in a department store after hours, a.k.a. the recurring dream of children everywhere? The only way this book could be more kid-friendly is if Lisa's room was full of juice boxes and unlimited Legos. It's a classic for a reason.

What is Corduroy About and Why Should I Care?

Oh, come on now, sport. Don't even try to act like you don't care about this book. Corduroy consistently makes every list of top children's books of all time, so no matter what obstacles life has thrown at your now-jaded heart, we know there's a place deep down for this adorable, adventurous bear.

As it turns out, Corduroy knows a little something about overcoming obstacles too. When the book begins, he's just passively waiting on a shelf (as stuffed animals often do), hoping somebody will bring him home. However, the moment Lisa's mother rejects him due to his missing button, our hero decides to channel his inner Fur-dinand Magellan and sets out on a quest to find it.

It's no wonder that he's eventually "adopted" by a girl with an enterprising spirit of her own. Not only does Lisa use her own hard-earned money to purchase Corduroy, but she also makes quick work of fixing that missing button.

It may be a simple story, but Corduroy teaches kids about curiosity, acceptance, and the power of taking your life into your own...paws.

Corduroy Resources

Websites

Your One-Stop Shop for All Things Corduroy
Corduroy's legacy lives on through this website, which provides printable coloring pages, activity ideas for parents and educators, and links to official Corduroy products, including a hipster-approved T-shirt with the text of the book printed hundreds of times.

The Lydia Freeman Charitable Foundation
Proceeds from the sales of most Corduroy books go to this foundation, started in 1997 by Freeman and his late wife as a way to give back. Over the years, the foundation has supported organizations that promote literacy and help disabled children. We don't have any snarky comments to add; that's just plain awesome.

Movie or TV Productions

The Story Comes to Life...Literally
In 1984, a sixteen-minute live action version of Corduroy aired on TV, complete with what we assume is a human in an expressionless Corduroy costume.

After "Happily Ever After"
If you've ever wondered what happened to Corduroy and Lisa after the story ended (haven't we all?), check out the TV series that occasionally airs on PBS Kids/is available in one form or another on YouTube.

This Must Be a Movie Theater
Corduroy's antics are coming soon to a theater near you, with Ride Along and Fantastic Four director Tim Story attached to an upcoming CBS Films production.

Articles and Interviews

Lisa: Where Is She Now?
Don Freeman modeled his heroine after his friend's young daughter, who was also named Lisa. The real Lisa grew up to be a Princeton-educated ballerina-turned-psychotherapist—a strong contender for Shmoop's Coolest Career Trajectory Ever award. Her blog is full of musings on current events and pop culture, but we're especially partial to this post from 2012 in which she relates her "casting" in Corduroy to the importance of representation in Hollywood.

Thank You, Don Freeman
In this blog post, writer Joi Maria provides a sweet firsthand account of what the character of Lisa meant to her as a young Black girl.

Video

Corduroy | Children's Books Read Aloud
If you're an audiovisual learner or you left your copy of Corduroy in another room and don't feel like getting off the couch for story time, let the Storybook Nanny read the full text to you.

Behind the Scenes
Corduroy was published well before the internet age—so, before authors were expected to give interviews and provide "supplemental content" for their books. However, in this documentary Storymaker, author Don Freeman himself details the process of publishing another one of his books. Come for an insider look at publishing; stay for Freeman's awesome trumpet skills.