Way Back Wednesday Essential Classic
A Pocket for Corduroy
By Don Freeman
My grown kiddies first came upon the picture books of Don Freeman via the titles, Beady Bear, Dandelion and then, Corduroy. The books and characters he imagined and drew, created many hours of bedtime and leisure reading for them. I guess Don Freeman is one reason that I am partial to bruins of all types, but especially in literature whether they are called Paddington, Pooh, Berenstain or Baloo, and any number of others I could name. There is something about a bear that is comforting and relatable to a child. Perhaps, that’s why they keep popping up in kid lit as opposed to an aardvark. Why even a bear named Smokey was chosen by the Ad Council as a way to educate children in 1947 as a way to inform them about the dangers of forest fires. The famous quote ran “Remember…. only you can prevent forest fires.” It’s since been updated to say; “Only you can prevent wildfires.” And the Ad Council maintains that 95% and 77% of children know that quote. Amazing!
But, back to this bear! If you and your young reader have not read the original, do go back and read Corduroy. He is the bear in search of a home and the loving arms that embrace him in his quest, comes in the form of a young girl named Lisa.
In A Pocket for Corduroy, Lisa and her mom are in a Laundromat doing wash with the green overall suited and honey colored bear in tow. Lisa’s mom wisely advises Lisa to empty her pockets pre wash. “You don’t want your precious things to get all wet and soapy.” Corduroy, in glancing down at his overalls notices he is pocket less, and so begins one bear in search of a pouch. Mistaking a HUGE laundry bag for a cave, Corduroy ventures in, and of course is mistakenly bundled into the WASHER with the heaps of other clothing by a fellow launderer. A small bear is very easy to miss! When Lisa discovers the absence of the furry one, the Laundromat is near closing and unhappily they depart to renew the search the next day.
Luck is on the side of Corduroy when he is uncovered by the artist/launderer post wash and the least he feels he can do is dry the young bear’s sopping wet overalls. As they spin in the dryer, the artist is suddenly taken with an idea for a PAINTING as he views the clothes whirl in the dryer. Flashes of color inspire the beret headed man and he can’t WAIT to start the creative process. Hey, inspiration is all around us, even in Laundromats, and sometimes what we simply need is a Muse or facilitator. Enter Corduroy!
Unexpected surprises are always afoot for Corduroy as he innocently tips over a box of Swan Flakes soap chips, believing it to be real SNOW! And he is rewarded with an unexpected slippery and soapy flake filled slide down a tabletop into a cart.
With the Laundromat now closed, young readers will be wondering and ASKING, “Does Corduroy get home?” “Will he get his pocket?” Why not read and find out is always my answer to that question!
Don Freeman, who passed away in 1978, had that rare gift and touch for taking an ordinary event in a day and making it something SPECIAL in a picture book, just because a very loveable bear named Corduroy experienced it. Corduroy’s wide-eyed openness, willingness to try new adventures and meet new people, mirrors the child in all of us. And I can’t help but think that a great deal of that spirit infused into his characters came from Don himself. His books are a living legacy in the picture book pantheon!
And Corduroy and A Pocket for Corduroy are picture books that are classic and comforting, just like their hero!! Well done, Don, and thank you from generations of young readers, including two particular young ladies that I know!