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This version was saved 12 years, 10 months ago View current version     Page history
Saved by Todd Ide
on August 10, 2009 at 10:30:57 am


            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

            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. 

            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. 

            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.




"Don Freeman." Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. 10 August 2009, 10:30 UTC. Wikimedia Foundation, Inc. 10 Aug. 2004. <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Don_Freeman>.



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