CORDUROY by DON FREEMAN
I have memories of sitting with my mother, tucked protectively behind the crook of her legs. We’re on a sofa in our living room. The ‘70s have yet to dawn. As memories sometimes do, these appear in quick, tiny bursts—a tiny flash of recognition, before—poof—the image dissipates and fades. Flash! My mother’s smile, warm. Flash! Me absorbing the warmth of her body. Flash! The shifting intonation in her voice as she reads the story of a loveable but overlooked teddy bear waiting for just the right girl to love. Flash! My joy at discovering the artwork. As real as Diahann Caroll in Julia on TV.
Courderoy was the first book I remember that featured African American characters, a mother and daughter, who were just everyday people. Shopping. Planning. Moving. Growing. No apathy or pity; not destitute or wanton. Written and illustrated by Don Freeman, the book was published in 1968 by Viking Press. According to a site dedicated to his memory (donfreeman.info), Freeman simply wanted to tell a story that took place while shopping and featured a character named Corduroy from a previously unpublished manuscript he’d written. I would later learn that Corduroy was first rejected by Viking Press; then it was rejected by several others before Freeman resubmitted to Viking Press and finally got the green light. Now, it has celebrated a 40-year anniversary and is still in print.
Great inspiration from a great book. Thank you, Don Freeman.