Study Guide

Corduroy Themes

  • Acceptance/Belonging

    Long before Lady Gaga proudly declared, "I'm on the right track, baby/I was born this way," Corduroy taught young readers that they didn't need to change themselves in order to be loved.

    Corduroy's desire for acceptance and belonging sparks the action in the story as the brave little bear sets off to find his missing button. He believes his flaws are hindering him from his goal of finding a home, but in the end, he realizes that Lisa loves him exactly as he is.

    Questions About Acceptance/Belonging

    1. How do the illustrations highlight Corduroy's desire for belonging?  
    2. Why is Lisa's response to Corduroy's missing button significant? 
    3. How does the book's historical context create a meta-lesson about acceptance?

    Chew on This

    Corduroy may think he's looking for a missing button, but what he really wants is a place to belong.

    In the late 1960s, Corduroy and Lisa's story of acceptance was especially meaningful.

  • Bravery/Curiosity

    Corduroy's confusion and amazement at the things he finds in the department store suggest that this is his first time ever leaving his shelf.

    Remarkably, the little teddy bear doesn't show any signs of fear. Instead, he just uses his imagination to make assumptions about his environment, however incorrect those assumptions may be. His bravery and curiosity show kids that there's no reason to be scared of journeying into the unknown, especially if you can turn that journey into an adventure.

    Of course, it probably helps that he's living out the popular fantasy of staying in a department store overnight.

    Questions About Bravery/Curiosity

    1. Why do you think Corduroy wasn't scared of exploring the department store on his own? 
    2. How does Corduroy respond to the new stimuli he encounters throughout the store? 
    3. How is Corduroy's curiosity a weakness? 
    4. How is it a strength?

    Chew on This

    The character of Corduroy is a model for bravery and curiosity.

    Corduroy could be used to teach children coping skills for major life changes.

  • Luxury vs. Simplicity

    Honestly, we probably wouldn't have addressed this theme in the text, but Don Freeman himself wrote to his editor that he "wanted the story to show the vast difference between the luxury of a department store [and] the simple life [most people live]." (Source)

    His book, his rules—that's how it works, right?

    His illustrations do provide some interesting contrasts between the opulent department store and Lisa's home, and you'll never guess which one Corduroy likes better.

    Just kidding, we all know where this one's going: the small, simple setting of Lisa's room is clearly much cozier, showing kids that bigger isn't always better.

    Questions About Luxury vs. Simplicity

    1. How does Freeman use eye contact to illustrate the difference between the department store and home?
    2. How do the spatial relationships between the items in the department store and those Lisa's room define the space? 
    3. How does Freeman's use of color connect the two main settings in the story?

    Chew on This

    Freeman uses eye contact to signal that Corduroy has finally found his home, unlike the lonely department store.

    By mixing day and night palettes in Lisa's room, Freeman suggests that it will be a permanent home for Corduroy.