The luck of being in the right place at the right time can make all the difference. And that’s how the world got Clifford, the Big Red Dog.
In 1963 Norman Bridwell was broke and desperately looking for work as a commercial artist in New York City. He and his wife had just become parents of a baby girl who wasn’t sleeping through the nights. It was a very stressful time for them.
Figuring he had to try anything to find work, he put together a portfolio of illustrations that might be used for children’s books and made the rounds of publishers. He got little encouragement, but an editor at Harper & Row looked at one drawing of a little girl with a huge red dog and suggested that there might be a story there.
Three days later Bridwell had created Clifford, the Big Red Dog and dropped it off at Harper & Row.
Here’s where the luck came in.
The manuscript went to a woman whose job was to read unsolicited manuscripts. She knew that Harper & Row wouldn’t be interested so without telling anyone, she took it to Scholastic, a publisher specializing in children’s books.
Three weeks later an editor from Scholastic called Bridwell with an offer to publish the manuscript.
As the book attracted young readers, his wife suggested he write more books about Emily Elizabeth and her sweet, clumsy big red dog. He was convinced that the success of the book was a fluke, but he followed it up with another and another, eventually twelve titles in all.
Today there are more than 126 million Clifford books in print in 13 languages.
Although children love the books, Clifford has never been a favorite of critics or people who give book awards. They prefer books that are concerned with teaching moral lessons, but Clifford is mostly for entertainment.
Why do kids love Clifford so much?
Bridwell, now 81-years-old and still writing books, explained in an interview:
[Clifford] makes mistakes, he's clumsy, he's not perfect. But he's always forgiven because he means well. Also, Clifford's amazing size means that ordinary events, such as a camping trip or visit to the circus, become real adventures….Because Clifford is so big and also because he's a dog, he's able to do the most unbelievable and imaginative things. Source