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Norman Bridwell Dies: Author of Clifford the Big Red Dog Was 86

Image: Norman Bridwell Dies: Author of Clifford the Big Red Dog Was 86
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By    |   Wednesday, 17 Dec 2014 07:28 AM

Norman Birdwell, creator of the children's literature staple Clifford the Big Red Dog, died Friday on Martha's Vineyard in Massachusetts. He was 86.

Birdwell succumbed to prostate cancer and was hospitalized for three weeks after a fall at a home he shared with his wife, according to The New York Times. The newspaper said Birdwell sold his first Clifford the Big Red Dog in 1963 as an out-of-work commercial artist.

"In the actual drawing of the book, Clifford turned out close to the size of a house," wrote the New York Times' Bruce Weber. "He was an affectionate, slightly clumsy, eager-to-help creature who had flaws — he had a tendency to dig up flowers, among other things — and caused problems. But he was nonetheless the embodiment of kindness and amiability, a four-legged, wet-nosed, bright red lesson in learning to get along with others."

The books have gone on to sell 129 million copies, be translated into 13 languages, along with inspiring an animated television series and a full-length animated film, noted the Times.

The Los Angeles Times reported that the Indiana native at first struggled to find a home for Clifford as the original idea was rejected by nine publishers before Scholastic signed him.

"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," Dick Robinson, chairman, president of Scholastic, told the LA Times.

"The magic of the character and stories Norman created with Clifford is that children can see themselves in this big dog who tries very hard to be good, but is somewhat clumsy and always bumping into things and making mistakes," said Robinson. "What comforts the reader is that Clifford is always forgiven by Emily Elizabeth, who loves him unconditionally."

Birdwell said in his Scholastic biography that Clifford sort of resembled him growing up as a child.

"I was not good at sports and my high school shop teacher, after a few days of class, took my tools away, telling me 'Here's a pad of paper instead. You seem to like to draw: stick to that,'" Birdwell was quoted as saying as the start of his career as a storyteller, according to Scholastic.

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Norman Birdwell, creator of the children's literature staple Clifford the Big Red Dog, died Friday on Martha's Vineyard in Massachusetts. He was 86.
norman bridwell, dies, author, clifford the big red dog
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2014-28-17
Wednesday, 17 Dec 2014 07:28 AM
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