• Bridwell, Norman bio

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Bridwell, Norman
February 15, 1928 -

1991 Ludington Award Winner

"Norman (Ray) Bridwell." Major Authors and Illustrators for Children and Young Adults, 2nd ed., 8 vols. Gale Group, 2002. Reproduced in Biography Resource Center. Farmington Hills, Mich.: Thomson Gale. 2007.
Photo provided by Scholastic, Inc.

Norman Bridwell is the author and illustrator of numerous well-loved children's books that focus on Clifford, a large, red dog and his adoring owner Emily Elizabeth, a character named after Bridwell's daughter. In each story Clifford and Emily Elizabeth are presented with various minor predicaments brought on by Clifford's well-meaning but clumsy ways. The series includes such titles as Clifford Goes to Hollywood, Clifford's Halloween, Clifford's Manners, Clifford and the Grouchy Neighbors, the award-winning Clifford, the Big Red Dog, Clifford Makes a Friend, and many others.

Bridwell has also written and illustrated several books about an affectionate witch as well as some delightful tales about monsters. He once commented: "I enjoy making up stories that I hope are funny enough to amuse children. It isn't easy all the time. I try to spend five hours a day at my desk. If the weather is good that isn't easy. I try to get all my ideas by myself. I do accept editorial suggestions because my editors are pretty nice people and have been extremely helpful."

"Never in my wildest dreams could I have imagined that I would have such success," Bridwell once remarked. "Despite the fact that my books are rarely noticed or mentioned by critics or specialists in children's literature, children and teachers know them and seem to like them. I'm extremely grateful to my readers and to the teachers who find Clifford useful for getting young readers started."

With over sixty "Clifford" books, readers of all ages have a wide variety of titles from which to choose. Appearing in picture, board, pop-up, and lift-the-flap books, Clifford continues to attract young readers looking for more adventures of the silent, good-natured canine. After experiencing initial disappointment with his early attempts to break into children's publishing, Bridwell took the advice of an editor and tried his hand at illustrating a story of his own creation. Using a failed illustration of a young girl with her dog, Bridwell took that same dog, made him larger-than-life, and painted him red. When asked by Highlights for Children interviewer Lorraine St. Pierre why he selected such an unusual color for his dog, the author/illustrator replied, "There was a jar of red paint on the end of my drawing table. . . . I dunked my brush in it and decided that it would be red."

This large, red dog caught the attention of an editor at Scholastic, beginning a forty-year-long relationship between the publisher and Bridwell. The success of Clifford has spilled over into other media as well, with Scholastic and the Public Broadcasting System developing a children's cartoon series featuring the antics of the red canine and his family. When reflecting upon the success of Clifford, Bridwell told Entertainment Weekly's Bruce Fretts, "We didn't think it would ever be published. . . . But it worked out." He continued, "I really don't know why he's appealing to children, but I'm glad he is."

Born February 15, 1928, in Kokomo, IN; son of Vern Ray (a factory foreman) and Mary Leona (Koontz) Bridwell; married Norma Howard (an artist), June 13, 1958; children: Emily Elizabeth, Timothy Howard. Avocation: Photography, history, music. Education: Attended John Herron Art Institute, 1945-49, and Cooper Union Art School, 1953-54. Politics: Independent. Religion: "Unitarian Universalist." Addresses: Home--Box 869, High St., Edgartown, MA 02539.

Raxon Fabrics, New York, NY, artist and designer, 1951-53; H. D. Rose Co. (filmstrips), New York, NY, artist, 1953-56; freelance commercial artist, 1956-70; writer; illustrator. Worked as a messenger for a lettering company.

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