Don published over 20 books for children in his lifetime, most of these printed by The Viking Press (now a division of Penguin USA). (A PDF of a list of all his books can be downloaded as donfreemanbooklist.pdf and viewed on A List of Don’s Books).
The first children’s book by Don and his wife Lydia was Chuggy and the Blue Caboose.
“Simplicity is the essence of children’s book stories, not simple mindedness,” he once told an audience interested in writing, illustration, and publishing children’s books. This lecture is presented here as “Don’s Lecture”. You can also download this as a PDF file.
Don was always getting ideas, he used to say: “An idea ‘lit’ on me.” But then came the hard work - bringing the idea down to an interesting and readable book. This process of getting an idea through to a published book always took a long time and many trials. Don would always make up a sketch of the whole book (called a “dummy”), with quick illustrations and handwritten text.
He would show it to Lydia, and any children that were around, to get their reactions. Lydia took the job of helping Don very seriously and actually co-authored many of Don’s books. She would comment on Don’s first draft and then this would then go through many versions. Don then would submit it to an editor of a publishing house and if they were interested, the real work began.
Don and Lydia’s ideas came to them in the everyday situations that one customarily encounters when working and living as an artist. Lydia remembered several poignant and humorous incidences in their personal life that became sources of Don and Lydia’s creative inspirations. In an interview in 1994, Lydia told her own story of how Don first came to create and later find a publisher for their first children’s book Chuggy and the Blue Caboose.
For more information, you can submit your question to me (Roy) at Info/Contact. There are a few online sources, one is the “Oral history interview with Don Freeman, conducted by Betty Hoag for the Archives of American Art, June 4, 1965,” Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution.
To view other titles of Don’s published children’s books and order them from Amazon, click “here.”