A BIG Celebration of the Big Red Dog
by Alexie Basil
Celebrate Scholastic’s 100th Birthday by diving into the story behind readers’ favorite pup, Clifford the Big Red Dog!
What’s big, red, and read all over? Clifford the Big Red Dog, of course!
In 2020, Scholastic turns 100 years old—and we couldn’t have done it without a very special, very large dog by our side (and on our shelves). Celebrate this awesome milestone with us by discovering five fun facts about Clifford, his origins, and The Story of Clifford.
1. Clifford the Big Red Dog Was Almost Tiny the Bloodhound
Originally, Norman Bridwell was going to name his big red dog an oxymoron: Tiny! But his wife, Norma, told him the name was too “boring” and suggested naming the character after one of her childhood imaginary friends, Clifford.
When Norman first drew Clifford, he was depicted as a large bloodhound. But over time, he became bigger and bigger and, as Norman described him, more of an “all-around dog.” As for why Clifford is his iconic color? Norman recalled, “It was red because I happened to have red paint on the drawing table that night.” (Read more here.)
2. Norman Bridwell Originally Only Wanted to Be an Illustrator
Norman loved drawing his entire life. After studying at the John Herron Art Institute in Indianapolis, Indiana, and then taking more classes at Cooper Union in New York City, Norman put together a portfolio and entered the world of children’s book illustration. But his submissions were rejected again and again, with critics telling him his work was too “ordinary.”
Finally, a children’s book-editor friend suggested that Norman try creating his own stories to accompany his pictures of a young girl who rode a large dog like a horse. And thus Clifford the Big Red Dog was born!
3. Even Clifford Makes Mistakes—and That’s Okay!
When Norman Bridwell passed away at 86 years old in 2014, Richard Robinson, president and CEO of Scholastic, released a heartfelt statement sharing why he believes Clifford means so much to so many readers worldwide:
“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. What comforts the reader is that Clifford is always forgiven by Emily Elizabeth, who loves him unconditionally.”
4. Much of Clifford’s World Was Inspired by Norman’s Own Life
Clifford’s human companion, Emily Elizabeth, is named after Norman’s daughter, Emily Elizabeth Bridwell.
According to Norman, his daughter didn’t think anything of being the namesake for a famous book character until she went to get a library card and a librarian asked, “Are you the real Emily Elizabeth?” In that moment, she realized her father had created a literary icon!
But Emily Elizabeth’s name wasn’t the only thing drawn from Norman’s real life. The name of Birdwell Island—where Emily Elizabeth, Clifford, and the rest of her family live in The Story of Clifford—is inspired by Norman’s last name. The “island” part of Birdwell Island is inspired by Martha’s Vineyard, where Norman lived with his wife for nearly 50 years.
5. Clifford the Big Red Dog Is Now on Amazon Prime Video and PBS Kids
Since his creation, Clifford has appeared in more than 80 books (with more than 133 million copies in print in 16 languages), an Emmy Award–winning television series, and now, a feature film!
Clifford will be making his debut on the big screen in November with his own brand-new live-action movie! In the meantime, you can watch Clifford in an animated TV series, Clifford the Big Red Dog, on Amazon Prime Video and PBS Kids. Check out a sneak peek of the series here—you might recognize the animation style from The Story of Clifford, which Scholastic Book Clubs is thrilled to offer as the Book of the Week!
Clifford has introduced millions of readers to the joy of reading over the past century—and we can’t wait to celebrate 100 years more together!
Do you have a fun fact about Clifford you’d like to share? Or a memory of what he means to you as a reader? We’d love to hear from you! Please let us know on social media using the hashtag #ScholasticBookClubs.
This Book Is Available from Scholastic Book Clubs