Over the years, many people have asked where Don got the idea and story of Corduroy. On this page I will try to answer these as best I can. More information will continue to be added (March 2008, rf).
The actual “story” behind a character named Corduroy is a book (as yet still unpublished) by Don called Corduroy, the Inferior Decorator. This is a story about a young boy who drove his parents crazy by painting on the walls of their apartment. “Corduroy” was a pet name that my father had for me when I was very young because I used to wear corduroy overalls all the time.
But all this is not the story about Corduroy the toy bear who went to find his lost button in a department store. Don never said much about a story when he was working on it. However, years after he published Corduroy, Don wrote to Linda Zuckerman, who had been his editor at the time Corduroy was published:
“Just possibly you would like to hear something of the background of Corduroy as I first came upon it… Of course I can’t remember exactly how it started, but I do recall wanting to do a story about a department store in which a character wanders around at night after the doors close. Then I also wanted the story to show the vast difference between the luxury of a department store [and] the simple life [most people live]. The idea of simple basic values was another theme that was running around in the back of my head. I don’t remember how or when a toy bear came into my life, but he must have come from way out of my past. You know, I could just see a bear wearing corduroy overalls with one button missing … the minute I settled on Corduroy and Lisa, everything came together.”
Another theme, perhaps of interest to budding writers of children’s books, is the path that Don and Corduroy took on their way to finally getting published. Like so many book ideas (both good and bad), the draft story with a set of illustrations was first rejected by Don’s main publisher, The Viking Press! He then sent it to other publishers, who for one reason or another also rejected the story. In the end, Don tried again with the Viking Press and this time they took the chance. A lesson to all: if you believe something is good, then do not give up! Corduroy the bear did not give up when he was first rejected because he was missing a button! He perked up his courage and went looking too!
Click here (download MP3, 2.9 MB) to listen to an mp3 version of Don reading the beginning of “The Inferior Decorator” to jazz music!