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Norman Bridwell's Clifford Collection

Celebrates 50 Years of Clifford the Big Red Dog

About.com Rating 4 Star Rating


Cover of Norman Bridwell's Clifford Collection
Norman Bridwell's Clifford Collection celebrates the 50th anniversary of Clifford the Big Red Dog. The book contains six stories that were originally published between 1963 and 1977 about a little girl, Emily Elizabeth, and her big red dog, Clifford. "Big" hardly describes him. This dog is bigger than Emily Elizabeth's house!

While his large size hasn't changed since the first books, his popularity has grown bigger and bigger over the years. According to Scholastic, Clifford books can be found in 13 languages, with more than 126 million books in print. In addition, Clifford's TV show on PBS KIDS is in its twelfth season.

What's Special and Different?

If you and your children are used to the 8" by 8" Clifford picture books, at 9¼" x 9¼", the pages in this story collection will seem quite large to you. The limited color palette in the story illustrations and the fact that Clifford's fur is not solid red may surprise children used to the more recent Clifford books.

The Introduction is nicely designed, with various typefaces, colors and illustrations setting off the text. There's an interesting "Dear Reader" letter from author and illustrator Norman Bridwell in which he gives a brief overview of how he came to write and illustrate the Clifford books. This is followed by Who Is Norman Bridwell?, an entertaining section illustrated with a photo of Bridwell as a child and a copy of the drawing that started it all. In Meet the Real Emily Elizabeth, we see a photo of Norman and his daughter. There are also several pages about the growing popularity of the Clifford books and character. These extras, particularly the illustrations, will add to young readers' enjoyment, but it is the stories themselves that make this a book I recommend for ages 3 to 6.

The Stories in the Collection

If your children are big Clifford fans, you may already be familiar with the six stories in Norman Bridwell's Clifford Collection. As in the other Clifford picture books, the stories, first person accounts by Emily Elizabeth, begin with her introducing herself and Clifford to readers. Illustrations fill each page, and there is a limited amount of text. The emphasis of the stories is generally on Clifford trying to be helpful, messing up, but persevering and ultimately succeeding. The six stories are
  • Clifford the Big Red Dog - Emily Elizabeth introduces Clifford and tells about his good and bad habits.
  • Clifford at the Circus - When the circus needs help, Clifford saves the day by performing in numerous roles, despite some mishaps along the way.
  • Clifford Gets a Job - Clifford is so big, it is getting too expensive for Emily Elizabeth's family to feed him. All of Clifford's efforts to get and keep a job to help pay for his food go awry. However, when he captures a carload of robbers, the police chief invites him to be a police dog and pays him in dog food.
  • Clifford Takes a Trip - When the family goes on vacation, they leave Clifford home because he is too big to go with them. Clifford is so lonely that he goes after them, following their scent for miles, arriving at the campground just in time to save Emily Elizabeth from an irate bear.
  • Clifford's Good Deeds - Emily Elizabeth and Clifford join their cub scout neighbor, Tim, in attempting to do good deeds, but things keep going wrong. They finally complete a good deed when Clifford helps Emily Elizabeth and Tim save two children from a burning building and then puts out the fire.
  • Clifford's Tricks - Emily Elizabeth and Martha, the new girl in her neighborhood, each try to prove to the other that their dog is the best. After an accident, a scare and acts of bravery by both dogs, the girls agree they each love their own dog the best.

Where You'll Find Clifford the Big Red Dog

You'll find books about Clifford in the children's picture books, board books and beginning reader books sections of your public library and local bookstore. A touring musical starring Clifford will visit more than 50 cities during the 2012-2013 school year as part of Scholastic's 50th anniversary celebration of Clifford the Big Red Dog. Since 2004, there has also been a traveling museum exhibition called "Adventures with Clifford the Big Red Dog."

You can find more information about Clifford on various About.com sites. On the Kids Movies & TV site, learn about the Clifford TV show and the Clifford movies that are on the Guide's list of the Best Kids' Movies Based on Books for Young Children and the Top 10 Valentine's Day Movies for Families and Kids list. On the Entertaining site there's a photo of a wonderful Clifford the Big Red Dog birthday cake and on the Sewing site, you'll find the directions for making a Clifford the Big Red Dog Halloween costume.

You may already be aware of CLIFFORD'S BIG IDEAS that are the basis for Scholastic's BE BIG national campaign. The BIG IDEAS are - Share, Help Others, Be Kind, Be Responsible, Play Fair, De a Good Friend, Believe in Yourself, Have Respect, Work Together and Be Truthful. Clifford is the perfect symbol because, while the stories about him show his kindness and good heart, like most small children, while his intentions are good, Clifford is not perfect. It is much easier to love (and learn from) a character who tries his best than one who always does everything right.

About Norman Bridwell

Norman Bridwell was born February 15, 1928 and grew up in Kokemo, Indiana. After he graduated from high school, Bridwell studied art at the John Herron Art Institute in Indianapolis, Indiana, and at Cooper Union in New York. He then worked as a commercial artist. When he decided to try to supplement his income with children's books, he visited numerous children's publishers with his portfolio. The only interest shown was by an editor who suggested he write a story about a picture he'd done of a little girl and a big dog.

Norman Bridwell went on to create his first story about the big red dog, naming him "Clifford" after his wife's imaginary childhood friend and naming the little girl who owned him after his daughter. In 1963, the first Clifford book, Clifford the Big Red Dog, was published, with many more following. (Sources: Scholastic August 2012 Clifford 50 Years press kit, Norman Bridwell Interview Transcript, Scholastic's Clifford site )

My Recommendation

Clifford stories make great read alouds. It's fun to read Clifford books to children 3 to 6 and have them tell you what they would do if they had a dog like Clifford. The simple illustrations, the short length of the stories and their good-humored tone make them enjoyable for adults and children alike.
Disclosure: A review copy was provided by the publisher. For more information, please see our Ethics Policy.

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