Plot Summary

      Written and illustrated by Don Freeman, published in 1968, Corduroy is a gloriously ordinary story about a little bear who wants somebody to buy him.  One day, a girl comes across him, looks in his eyes, and asks her mother if she can buy him.  Her mother says no because Corduroy is missing a button.  That night while all the other toys are asleep, Corduroy ventures off into the store to find a button.  He sees a mattress of buttons and attempts to pull one off thinking that it is his, and ends up falling over onto the floor, knocking a lamp down.  A male security guard comes and puts him back on the shelf.  The next day, the little girl returns to the store with money to buy him and brings him back to her house, giving Corduroy his first home.

     The genre of the story is fantasy because it includes the fantastical element of a stuffed animal who is alive and has feelings, which is not something that could happen in this world. But it could be argued that the story is fiction because although the stuffed animal is able to talk, Don Freeman uses Corduroy to depict a relationship between a girl and a boy in a real-life setting

     From this perspective, although it might be looking too deeply into it, I think that the story is about a girl who sees a boy at a store and wants to bring him home, but her mother will not let her because he is clearly not up-to-par with a person she thinks her daughter should be hanging out with.  Corduroy goes to steal the missing accessory for his clothes, but gets caught and is put back where he belongs. The girl buys him, and mends his clothes. 

      This story touches on class issues through discrimination against people because of their appearance, and portrays gender in obvious ways in both the text and the illustrations; we may not think children are absorbing these.


Textual Elements


     Corduroy is a fantasy story, because the main character is a bear that talks, thinks, acts, and expresses emotion like a human. After reading the text and viewing the illustrations it is easy to recognize that the events are imaginative, and logically consistent within the story.  An example of this is when Corduroy is searching for his lost button and he ventures up the escalator, wondering to himself if what he was doing was climbing a mountain.

     However, the story also falls into the fiction genre because there are elements that are depicted in a real and believable manner, identifying real situations in life. The text and illustrations establish a somewhat glum mood in the beginning of the story, when no one would buy Corduroy. Later the text and illustrations change to a more cheerful and friendly mood, when the girl comes back to the store to buy Corduroy.


     The story takes place at a big department store. There are vivid images and solid understandable structures that can be drawn from the text and illustrations to help make up the setting.


Corduroy - is the bear in the story who longs for a friend and a home where he can be happy. Corduroy wears a pair of green overalls that are missing a button. He searches for his button in the department store so he will look new and be purchased, until the night watchman finds him and returns him to the toy department.  

 The little girl - is the one who sees Corduroy in the store and wants to buy him. She wears a pink jacket and a white scarf over her hair. After counting her money she had saved, she discovers she has enough to buy Corduroy and goes back to the store the next day and buys him.


The mother - is the one who hears her daughter ask if she can get the bear. She makes the claim that Corduroy does not look like a new bear because he is missing a button. She wears a purple jacket and a white and pink hat.


The watchman - is the night guard who hears the noise when Corduroy is trying to get his button. He finds him and returns Corduroy to the toy department. He wears a navy blue and black guard’s uniform.


     The characters of the story seemed to support the typical roles of each gender. The author seems to portray girls as prim and proper and boys as outgoing and sometimes mischievous. This was shown by the manner in which they spoke, and dressed. Likewise, the colors the author decided to use on the characters and their surroundings are appropriate to their genders and the mood of the story.


     This story has multiple meaningful themes. The first theme causes the readers to think about how it is wrong to judge based on appearances. The girl’s mother in the story judged Corduroy to be an old rugged bear because he was missing one of his buttons, and she seemed to steer her daughter away as if the bear would not make her as happy. In reality, when Corduroy was purchased by the girl, he made a very good friend and provided her with great happiness. Another theme that has a meaningful message is that there is nothing better than a good friend. The relationship good friends share is more precious than anything. Likewise, another message I got out of the story was, “a home is where the heart is,” because, even though Corduroy has always wanted to live in a palace he ends up completely happy to live with the little girl in her tiny bedroom.  

Point of View    

Corduroy is written as a third person narrative. The point of view is written from the bear, Corduroy’s perspective.  



Artistic Elements 

     The illustrations are cartoon and the media is watercolor with black ink pen outlines. Freeman uses colors to convey emotion; he uses an orange background for relatively neutral feelings, darker tones when Corduroy goes to steal his button, and yellow at the end of the book when Corduroy and Lisa are together and both are happy. 

     In our text book on page 37, it explains that white or light backgrounds feel safer than darker backgrounds and Freeman uses this to his full advantage to convey messages to children who read this book.  In the illustrations on the first page, a male clown is painted with a darker background, and a female doll is painted in a light background, subliminally sending children who read this book a gender message.  On the 3rd and 4th page, the same message is sent using background colors.  Once Lisa leaves with Corduroy, there is a picture of Lisa ascending up the stairs to her house holding Corduroy, leaving behind her a dark grey color, and in front of her a light yellow/white. Through color, the message being sent to children could be that two people complete each other and together they move on to a brighter future, which I think is the theme of the book.


Analysis and Critique

     Girls are portrayed as obedient and polite, and boys are portrayed as go-getters and somewhat mischievous.  Lisa listens to her mother when she says she cannot buy Corduroy, goes back to buy him after her mother says yes, and says “oh no thank you” when the cashier offers to put him in a box.  On the other hand, Corduroy sneaks off to steal a button in the middle of the night, and after knocking over a lamp and causing enough chaos for the security guard to come to the scene, Corduroy does not say sorry.  At the end of the book, Lisa sews his clothes for him, and they hug.  Freeman could have written “and they gave each other a hug” but instead, he writes “and Lisa hugged him”, sending a clear message to children who read Corduroy that girls are the nice ones who hug boys and fix their clothes.  In addition, all male characters in the book (including the stuffed animals) are wearing either blue or green, and all the female characters are painted in purple or pink.

     All in all, when I was a child I thought this was a great book, but after reading further into the story and the illustrations, I would think twice about reading this story to my children.




Picture Book Citation

Last Name, First Name. Book Title. Illus. Illustrator First and Last Name. City of Publication: Publisher, Year of Publication.

One Author (No Illustrator)

Last Name, First Name. Book Title. City of Publication: Publisher, Year of Publication.


Two or More Authors: 1)  List the names in the order they appear on the title page. 2) Only the first author's name should be reversed: Last Name, First Name. 3) Use a comma between the           authors' names. Place a period after the last author's name.

Last Name, First Name and 2nd Author First Name Last Name. Book Title. City of Publication: Publisher, Year of Publication.



"Don Freeman." Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. 10 August 2009, 10:30 UTC. Wikimedia Foundation, Inc. 10 Aug. 2004. <>.