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Norman Bridwell, Clifford the Big Red Dog creator, dead at 86

Illustrator Norman Bridwell, creator of the Clifford the Big Red Dog franchise, has died after a fall. He was 86 years old.

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Bridwell passed away on Dec. 12 at Martha’s Vineyard Hospital after sustaining injuries during a fall at home three weeks earlier, his wife, Norma, confirmed. He also suffered from a recurrence of prostate cancer.

After releasing the first book, Clifford the Big Red Dog, in 1963, Bridwell spun it into more than 40 books, cartoons, a musical, a feature film and an incredible amount of products, including stuffed animals, stickers, key chains and posters. The beloved children’s character has appeared everywhere from the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade to the White House.

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“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. Clifford was rejected by nine publishers before finding a home at Scholastic.

“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.

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Fans of the beloved series have two more Bridwell originals to look forward to, which he completed before his death: Clifford Goes to Kindergarten will be released in May 2015 and Clifford Celebrates Hanukkah will be released the following fall.

In addition to his wife, Bridwell leaves behind daughter Emily Elizabeth, son Timothy and three grandchildren.

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