"When I was a little girl, it wasn’t often that I found myself reflected in the pages of a book," Viola Davis, who wrote Corduroy Takes a Bow, tells PEOPLE
During Viola Davis’s difficult childhood, she found few books that connected to her life. An exception was the bestselling picture book Corduroy by Don Freeman, which caught national attention at the time of its publication in 1968, because the teddy bear’s friend, Lisa, is African-American. The book so touched the Oscar winner that it inspired her to write a continuation of the story, Corduroy Takes A Bow.
“When I was a little girl, it wasn’t often that I found myself reflected in the pages of a book,” the 52-year-old star of How To Get Away with Murder told PEOPLE in a statement for the book’s exclusive cover reveal. “Corduroy was an exception, and I adored flipping through it. To be able to introduce a new generation, including my daughter, to this character that was so special to me in my childhood is an incredible honor.”
The first Corduroy book, published in 1968, follows the teddy bear as he searches for his missing button. In Corduroy Takes a Bow, illustrated by Jody Wheeler, Corduroy and Lisa visit the theater for the first time and the teddy bear goes off to explore behind the scenes before ending up on stage. Corduroy Takes a Bow will publish on Sept. 4, 2018, to coincide with the original book’s 50th anniversary.
“Viola Davis is an extraordinary creative talent and it’s a privilege to publish her first children’s book,” said Ken Wright, vice president and publisher of Viking Children’s Books. “Viola and Corduroy felt from day one like a perfect match, and she does a magnificent job introducing this beloved character to the theater world that she knows so well. There could no one better suited to maintain and build upon Corduroy creator Don Freeman’s enduring legacy.”
Davis has worked hard to be a role model for her 6-year-old daughter Genesis and young readers. Born in a one-room shack on a former slave plantation near St. Matthews, S.C. with no running water or bathroom, she grew up in poverty in Rhode Island and developed a passion for acting, earning a scholarship to the prestigious Juilliard School. She fought for recognition as an actress for decades before achieving acclaim with films like Doubt (2008) and The Help (2011).
“I was the kind of poor where I knew right away I had less than everyone around me,” Davis told PEOPLE in an episode of The Jess Cagle Interview last year. “I would fall asleep in school on a daily basis because there was nothing. We had nothing.”
Davis would go on to become the first black actress to win Tony, Emmy and Oscar awards for acting. She has used her platform to fight childhood hunger, encourage women’s equality, and advocate for equal pay for black actors who continue to be paid less than their white colleagues.
“People say, ‘You’re a black Meryl Streep … We love you. There is no one like you,'” Davis told journalist Tina Brown in an interview last month for the Women in the World Salon event. “OK, then if there’s no one like me, you think I’m that, you pay me what I’m worth.”
In The Jess Cagle Intervew, Davis emphasized the importance of making an impact on the world. With Corduroy Takes A Bow, she’s moving forward in that mission.
“Once your life is done, the only thing that’s left behind is how much you influenced the world and impacted a life,” she said.