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Fuzzy wuzzy was a bear
on May 20, 2004
Children have been fascinated with the idea of dolls and toys that can talk and move, from the Newbery winning, "Hitty: Her First 100 Years" to the more contemporary (and better known) "Corduroy". This particular tale focuses on a bear, his small unassuming quest, and the girl that eventually becomes his friend. The book feels more like, "The Velveteen Rabbit" than "Toy Story", but kids will quickly come to enjoy (or at the very least, understand) Corduroy's wish for a child to love him.
Living in a department store with other toys and dolls, Corduroy is a stuffed teddy bear in overalls. One day a doe-eyed girl and her patient mama spot the bear and the child is instantly entranced. Unfortunately, her mother points out that the bear is a little worn down and is even missing one of the buttons on its overalls. Upon hearing this, the bear is distressed and resolves to, that night, locate the missing item. After taking an unexpected ride up the escalator, Corduroy finds himself in the store's bedding area. He tries (unsuccessfully) to prise a button off of a nearby mattress, but succeeds only in alerting the local night watchman to his presence. The next day, however, the girl returns with her own allowance money and quick as a wink purchases the bear, missing button and all. She even sews a new button back onto his overalls, and the two are fast friends.
The book, when you look at it closely, almost seems to resemble a series of woodcuts, painted with watercolors later. I don't know if this was the case, but if so the author/artist, Don Freedman, is certainly adept. I've never seen woodcut faces as well presented as the ones here. People are smooth and rounded, and Freedman apparently doesn't have any problems with round curves. Moreover, I was impressed that the little girl and her mother that view Corduroy are black. Originally published in 1968, this was a bit of a big deal back in the day.
Today, the story of the little bear who wanted a friend is as poignant and simplistic in its telling as it was when first it came out. Anyone who read (or had read to them) this book as a child will instantly remember the scene of Corduroy tugging and tugging the button on the mattress in an attempt to remove it for himself. It's a sweet story all in all. I think people feel a great deal of affection for "Corduroy" because they can identify with the little unwanted fuzzy guy. He's a cutie, there's no question.