Thursday, December 18, 2014

We Bid Farewell to Norman Bridwell

Like so many others, I cut my reading teeth on the stories of a big red dog named Clifford.  Working in elementary school libraries for the last 10 years I can attest that such is still the case.  The Clifford books are still amongst the most popular series for primary grades.

Norman Bridwell, the creator of the beloved Clifford, has died at the age of 86.
Norman Bridwell and Clifford the Big Red Dog

From BBC News:
His loveable character first made an appearance in 1963 and went on to star in more than 40 stories, selling 120 million copies worldwide.  Bridwell had completed two more books which are due for release next year.

His wife of 56 years, Norma, said: "A lot of people were Clifford fans and that makes them Norman fans too."
She was responsible for naming the character Clifford after her imaginary childhood friend.

Over the decades, the bright red dog featured in a host of stories, including Clifford Goes To Hollywood and Clifford and The Grouchy Neighbours, which became popular bedtime reading for children.  

Cover of Clifford's Birthday Party

The dog regularly got into trouble before redeeming himself with a daring rescue or doing a good deed. Bridwell's wife said there were parallels between the author and his creation.

"He's never been able to recognise that. Clifford tries to do the right thing, Norman tries to do right the thing, and he makes a mess of it. But he's the most lovable grown-up man. He's just a nice guy."

Before he found fame with Clifford, Bridwell worked as a commercial artist during the 1950s.  He made numerous attempts to break into children's publishing, until a New York book editor suggested he created a story around an illustration he had submitted of a child and her oversized dog. Further rejections followed, until publishers Scholastic saw his creation's potential - a move which led to lasting success for the company.

"I said to my wife, 'Now don't count on there being any more. This one is just a fluke. I don't know if there will ever be another one,'" Bridwell said.

In more recent years, the character was animated in a series of cartoons for US television, while a feature film - Clifford's Big Red Movie - was made in 2004.

Mr. Bridwell talks about the Clifford series in the 50th anniversary video from

“Norman personified the values that we as parents and educators hope to communicate to our children -- kindness, compassion, helpfulness, gratitude -- through the Clifford stories which have been loved for more than 50 years,”  said Dick Robinson, chairman, president and CEO of Scholastic.

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