I’m feeling a little nostalgic today; my only child has just started 3rd grade and I’m having very mixed feelings. Time is rushing by so quickly, even as many of us spend more time than ever with our families due to being quarantined during the Covid-19 pandemic. My son goes to a very small school that has put a huge emphasis on safety so he was able to begin attending in person this week. With the house so quiet, it’s given a lot of time to think. And one of the places my mind has wandered is back in time to the books we enjoyed together when he was younger.
Clifford the Big Red Dog was a character that he absolutely loved for years! I think most children enjoy the Clifford books between the ages of maybe 4-6 but my kiddo loved watching the cartoon series (now on Amazon Prime) well into his 7th year. First published in 1963 and written by Norman Bridwell, it’s such a wholesome series, both the books and TV show. The animation is fairly simplistic, the storylines are peaceful and even when faced with a challenge, dog and human characters work together to find thoughtful solutions. You never have to worry about the content your child is consuming when Clifford is involved!
The first thing you might notice if you decide to read the books and share the show with your child is that in some cases, the characters differ between the two mediums. Emily Elizabeth is still his owner but her parents look much different in the book, as do friends for both Emily Elizabeth and Clifford. I only mention this as some kids might have an issue with the discontinuity. My son accepted fairly easily that the book and show were separate entities but I realize not all kids will, so I wanted to provide a disclaimer up front. I’m here for you, parents!
We own a book called Fun With Clifford, which is a collection of four short stories. The stories run approximately 30 pages long, though some do not have words. All pages are fully illustrated. Each story can be read together or independently. I recall reading the book to my son in kindergarten but then he began reading them to me in first grade, once his reading and comprehension skills improved.
In Clifford’s Class Trip, Emily Elizabeth’s class is going on a field trip to the aquarium. I must say I’m surprised that Clifford is allowed to tag along but he does, even acting as transportation for some of the children. The class learns about different marine animals, including seals, an octopus and a dolphin. They also meet a baby whale who is ready to be returned to the ocean. But the truck that is supposed to bring the whale to the beach won’t start. Can anyone help solve this dilemma? Well, of course, Clifford can! He lifts the whale in a sling and carries it in his mouth, boarding a small boat and then releases the animal back to his family. Very sweet!
Clifford’s Best Friend is a highlights reel of Clifford and Emily Elizabeth’s relationship. We see how she greets him in the morning, eats her own breakfast and then feeds him using a dump truck! He then gives her a ride to school on his back and waits outside until the end of the day. After school, he gives her and several friends a ride home on his back. After homework is done, Clifford and Emily Elizabeth play with their friends in the park. Clifford tries to play catch like the smaller dogs but experiences a few missteps along the way. No big deal! These friends know how to problem solve! The pair then head home for dinner and their bedtime routine, and Emily Elizabeth drifts off to sleep, dreaming about how much she loves her best buddy.
Clifford and Emily Elizabeth have a lot to look forward to in Clifford’s Busy Week. But before they can get started on the fun, they have to find his missing mouse toy! Where could it be? After turning up empty handed in both the dog and people houses, Clifford resolves to look for it every day of the week. He has the very best intentions for his search but his size presents some issues along the way. He frightens some children at the playground, literally upsets the apple cart at the market and has no luck finding his toy at the farm, though several real mice scatter when he looks in the barn! It’s not at the lake and it’s not on the golf course. Dad tries to give him a new mouse but it’s just not the same. By the time the weekend rolls around, Clifford is very sad. But wait a minute… does Grandma have… his mouse?! Yes indeed, giving this story a very happy ending.
Clifford is ready to play like the kids in Clifford Makes the Team. After spotting a boy and girl walking down the street with baseball bats, he’s intrigued. He follows them to a park where he watches the kids play. He’d love to join in but he doesn’t have a bat. He looks around to see what he could use. A tree? A light pole? A pipe? No, none of those options are quite right. Feeling a bit defeated, Clifford goes back to the park. He’s sad, he’s crying, he’s soaking the children with his tears. Wanting to include him, the children invent a new game called Clifford baseball in which everyone wins!
Again, these books couldn’t be more wholesome. I highly recommend them for kids ages 4-6, and possibly older. If they’re a hit, consider the TV show as well as the Clifford’s Puppy Days books and TV show. It’s sweet, safe content that can bring comfort to your kiddos in today’s uncertain world. Enjoy!