'Clifford the Big Red Dog' Creator Norman Bridwell Dies at 86

Our favorite big red dog has lost his father. 'Clifford the Big Red Dog' creator Norman Bridwell died Friday in his home on Martha's Vineyard at the age of 86. Bridwell created his beloved four-legged pal more than 50 years ago in 1963, and he went on to write and illustrate more than 150 companion children's books. But his age never slowed him down, as Bridwell was set to release two new Clifford titles in 2015 — Clifford Goes to Kindergarten in May and Clifford Celebrates Hanukkah in October — and a movie based on his characters is in the works for 2016.

Currently, Scholastic counts more than 129 books in print in 13 languages, and of course there's also the Emmy-winning TV show based on the books.

Chairman, president, and CEO of Bridwell's longtime publisher Scholastic, Dick Robinson, talked about his friend and writer in a statement:

At Scholastic, we are deeply saddened by the loss of our loyal and talented friend whose drawings and stories have inspired all of us and generations of children and their parents...
Norman Bridwell’s books about Clifford, childhood’s most loveable dog, could only have been written by a gentle man with a great sense of humor ... 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 fifty years.

Clifford himself is the official mascot of Scholastic.

Our giant four-legged friend and his companion Emily Elizabeth — the name of Bridwell and his wife Norma's now adult daughter — had a lot of adventures together through the years. The red dog was Emily Elizabeth's birthday present, and if you recall, he didn't start off so big. He was a teeny tiny dog, small enough to sleep in a shoe box.

But he grew higher than 25 feet tall, forcing the family to move to Birdwell Island, where he met his other furry friends Cleo, Max, and T-Bone, and he and Emily Elizabeth celebrate Halloween, go to school, join the circus, and have so many other fun experiences. And through it all, no matter the hijinks or what goes wrong, Clifford and his friends stick together. Robinson said:

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.

And as us bookworms know, Clifford was also all about reading. In fact, he made a pretty good reading nook himself.

Last year for Clifford's 50th birthday, Scholastic talked to Bridwell about his creation.

Scholastic on YouTube

Norman, you will be sorely missed.

Image: Read Every Day. Lead A Better Life./Flickr; Clifford the Big Red Dog/Facebook (3)