Clifford the Big Red Dog Turns 50
Though I turn 41 on the day I interview Norman Bridwell, Iâ€™m as nervous as a schoolkid. After all, Bridwell is the creator of Clifford the Big Red Dog, one of the best-loved childrenâ€™s book characters.
Iâ€™ve adored the Clifford series since discovering it in my elementary school library, and recently had the pleasure of introducing the crimson canine to my toddler. When she saw The Clifford Collection (out 9/1, Scholastic, $13), a new volume containing six of the classic books as well as an essay by Bridwell, she began to giggle, just like I had decades before.
I ask Bridwell, who has lived on the Vineyard for 45 years, the secret behind Cliffordâ€™s irresistibility. â€śI donâ€™t really understand what made it work,â€ť he replies. In fact, Clifford may be one of the greatest flukes in childrenâ€™s publishing. In the early 1960s, Bridwell was an unemployed commercial artist in New York shopping his skills door to door when an editor showed interest in his painting of a little girl and her enormous pupâ€”based on Bridwellâ€™s childhood longing for a dog he could ride.
The editor suggested he write a story, and Bridwell took three days to pen a tale about a girl he named Emily Elizabeth (after his infant daughter) and her dog, Tiny. Bridwellâ€™s wife, Norma, objected to the canineâ€™s handle, proposing Clifford (for an imaginary friend she had as a girl) instead. â€śI never thought the book would see the light of day,â€ť Bridwell says, â€śso it didnâ€™t matter to me.â€ť
Fifty years and 126 million Clifford books in print later, Bridwell, 84, is still creating new adventures for the iconic character. â€śHe just kind of drags me along,â€ť he says. â€śI donâ€™t have a lot to do with it.â€ť The one thing Bridwell insists on is that Cliffordâ€™s location be vagueâ€”he could live anywhere, he says, even right down the street from my little girl.
Source URL: http://www.bostonmagazine.com/arts-entertainment/article/2012/09/12/clifford-big-red-dog-50-creator-interview-2/