Norman Bridwell, creator of the "Clifford the Big Red Dog" children's books, died Friday in Martha's Vineyard, Mass., his publisher Scholastic announced. Bridwell was 86.
"He's red and he's warm. Clifford does what you'd like to do but can't," Bridwell said of his famous character. "Because Clifford is so big and also because he's a dog, he's able to do the most unbelievable and imaginative things."
The first Clifford book was published in 1963. All told, there are more than 129 million copies of the many Clifford books in print in 13 languages. The character was also been the basis of an Emmy-award winning animated television show on PBS.
"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," said Dick Robinson, chairman, president and CEO of Scholastic, in a statement.
Born in Indiana in 1928, Bridwell studied art in New York and struggled to find a home for his children's books. "Clifford" was rejected by nine publishers before finding a home at Scholastic. Bridwell wrote and illustrated more than 150 books for the publisher.
"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," Robinson said.
Bridwell is survived by his wife, Norma; their daughter, Emily Elizabeth; son, Timothy; and three grandchildren. Before his death, Bridwell had completed two more Clifford books that will be released in 2015: "Clifford Goes to Kindergarten" in May and "Clifford Celebrates Hanukkah" in the fall.