Read an Old Favorite: Clifford the Big Red Dog

Book coverBridwell, Norman.  Clifford the Big Red Dog. New York: Scholastic, 1963.

Do you know this book?  While it is an older book, I think Clifford is still a terrific character.  Yes, Clifford is big and red.  He is a good friend to a small girl named Emily Elizabeth.  Emily Elizabeth says that he is the biggest, reddest dog on her street.  I don’t know about the reddest, but he is the biggest dog on any street and perhaps in the world.  How big is he?  He is as big as Emily Elizabeth’s house!  Where does he get a bath, in the swimming pool!! Clifford loves to play games with Emily Elizabeth!  In Hide and Seek she is an excellent hider, while Clifford is always found.  I wonder why? When Clifford begs, Emily Elizabeth must climb to the attic and use a window there to give him his reward.  Chasing cars for Clifford is problematical, as sometimes he catches them.  It makes the driver, very angry!  I wonder why?  He also runs after cats.  Emily Elizabeth can’t take him to the zoo, can you imagine why?  Clifford is a very special dog and Emily Elizabeth wouldn’t trade him!

My girls loved reading about Clifford. It was wonderful to give them this reading experience.  Children with disabilities need reading experiences as well.  Here is a link to an article on bringing literacy to life with story boxes: Story boxes are a great way to bring stories alive for children with visual impairments.  This article provides an example of how to make another Clifford story, Clifford’s Bedtime, accessible for children with disabilities.

Norman Bridwell

Norman decided to keep it all in the family.  Clifford was names after his wife’s childhood imaginary friend and Clifford’s friend and companion was named after Bridwell’s daughter, Emily Elizabeth.

Norman was born in Kokomo, Indiana!  I lived there for a year and never realized it was his birthplace.  At that time, I didn’t have any children and wasn’t familiar with this wonderful big, red dog.

He had a vivid imagination as a child and enjoyed making up imaginary kingdoms as a backdrop for his tin soldiers and other toys.  As with many other author/illustrators, he majored in art and spent some time working to get a job as a book illustrator.  A chance remark by a rejecting publisher set him on his path.  It was suggested that he make up stories about the big red dog and little girl who appeared in his portfolio.  Clifford the Big Red Dog’s career was launched. Scholastic can be congratulated for recognizing Bridwell’s brilliance!

Dick Robinson, chairman, president and CEO of Scholastic had this to say about Norman Bridwell and the Clifford books.

Norman Bridwell’s books about Clifford, childhood’s most loveable dog, could only have been written by a gentle man with a great sense of humor. 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 fifty years. 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.¹

Watch some video interviews with this author.

Read about more about Norman Bridwell on these websites.


Happy St. Patrick’s Day: Paddy’s Pay Day

PaddyDay, Alexandra.  Paddy’s Pay Day. New York: Puffin Books, 1989.

Okay, this book isn’t about St. Patrick’s Day, but I think of it often on this day.  Paddy, an Irish Terrier is the subject of the book.  He is a charming character.  As you would suppose, Paddy has no words.  You can read the book and imagine what he would say, if he could.

Paddy works with Trilby O’Farrell. They do tricks and acrobatics for carnivals, parties, and benefits.  Every month, Paddy gets his pay and he goes to the nearest village to spend it.  Although Paddy has no words, the everyone in the nearby village him recognizes him and interacts with him just like he could talk.

What do you do when you get paid? Do you buy yourself a treat?  Do you take care of personal chores, like getting a haircut?  Do you spend some of your pay on donations to good causes? Do you look for some entertainment, like a going to a movie?  Do you treat yourself at a meal at your favorite restaurant?  Do you buy little gifts for your friends?  In this book, you can follow Paddy and see how he spends his day off! It really is a lovely book to share with a child.

In the story, Paddy has his usual monthly meal at Murphy’s. It must be an Irish Pub! He treats himself to a baked potato with all the fixings and Guinness beer.  While it is not Paddy’s usual meal here is a special one, he might enjoy at Murphy’s on St. Patrick’s Day.  If you want to try it with your family or friends, I have listed the recipes for the stew and the bread.  Guinness, of course, holds the recipe for the beer and I purchased the truffles at my local HEB grocery store.

StPatrickDinnerA St. Patrick’s Day Menu for Paddy

Robin’s Irish Stew
Irish Soda Bread
Guinness Extra Stout
Irish Cream and Irish Coffee Truffles

Robin’s Irish Stew

Here’s my take on Irish Stew.  I didn’t have a recipe for one so I made this one up.

  • 2 c chopped onion (about 1 large. I like sweet onions, like 10/15)
  • 1 c chopped celery (about 3 large stalks)
  • 2 c sliced carrots
  • 3 c dices potatoes (about 4 medium potatoes)
  • 2 large cloves finely minced
  • 1 lb. beef roast, cubed
  • ½ c flour, seasoned with salt & pepper
  • 1 bay leat
  • 1 T rosemary, crushed
  • 2 T Olive oil
  • 4 c beef broth, low sodium
  • 12 oz Guinness extra stout (1 bottle)
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Dredge the meat cubes in the flour, salt, and pepper mixture.  Work in batches and remove coated cubes to a plate.

Use a large dutch oven or other large pot. Heat the olive oil in the pan on medium-high heat.  When oil is hot, add onions and sauté them for about 2 minutes until they begin to soften.  Add the meat cubes a handful at a time, stirring occasionally.  Continue to add meat until all of it is in the pot.  Cook until meat begins to brown about 2 minutes, stirring occasionally and scraping the bottom of the pan.  Add ¼ c of the beef broth and scrape the bottom of the pan, scraping up all the flour mixture stuck to the bottom.  You may need to use a metal spatula to get all the good flour mixture up from the bottom.  Add the carrots, celery, potato and garlic.  Cook for 3-4 minutes stirring often and scraping bottom of pot.  Add the remaining beef broth, scraping the bottom one more time.  Bring stew to a boil, reduce heat and simmer for 30 minutes.  Add the bay leaf, rosemary, Guinness and then salt and pepper to taste.  Simmer stew for another 30-45 minutes.

Remove bay leaf before serving.  Serve with Irish Soda Bread or some other hearty bread.

Irish Soda Bread from Joy of Cooking. Volume 2, Page 273

Preheat oven to 375º. Have all the ingredients at room temperature about 75°. Abbreviations: c=cup, T=tablespoon, and t=teaspoon.

  • 2 c sifted all-purpose flour
  • ¾ t baking soda
  • ½ t salt
  • 1 T sugar
  • 6 T chilled shortening
  • ½ to 1 c raisins
  • 1 T caraway seed
  • ½ to 2/3 c buttermilk

Mix the first four ingredients together in a large bowl.  Using a pastry cutter or two knives, cut the chilled shortening into the flour mixture until it has the consistency of corn meal.  Stir in the raisins and caraway seeds.  Add the buttermilk gradually to the bowl.  The mixture should not be dry.  Knead the dough briefly and shape into a round loaf.  Coat a cake pan with the oil and place the dough in the pan.  Cut a cross on the top of the bread letting it go over the sides so the bread will not crack in backing.  Brush the top of the bread with some of the buttermilk or regular milk.

Bake for 40 to 50 minutes until the bread looks golden brown.  Tap the bottom of the loaf and if a hollow sound emerges, the bread is done.

Lost Teeth: Two Books to Share

  • Bate, Lucy. Little Rabbit’s Loose Tooth. Diane deGroat, Illustrator. New York: Scholastic, 1975.
  • Brown, Marc.  Arthur’s Tooth. Boston: Little Brown and Company, 1985.

In case you haven’t noticed, the months of January and February have been brought to you by the letters A and B.  When I was browsing my shelves, I found these two books on the same subject by authors whose names begin with the letter B.  The young people in these books are concerned about their loose teeth!

In Little Rabbit’s Loose Tooth, she doesn’t want to eat hard food, like carrots and beans.  They are after all too hard for a little rabbit with a loose tooth.  Dessert strawberries would be much better!  Mother Rabbit, as mothers do, has a better idea.  Little Rabbit can have the soft strawberries for dessert and can eat carrots and beans with her teeth that aren’t loose.  All week, Little Rabbit eats hard foods with her other teeth and soft foods with her loose tooth.  Finally, she loses it in Friday’s chocolate ice cream.  Read this book to find out all those unanswered questions you have about what to do with a loose tooth, what the tooth fairy might do with the teeth she collects, and most importantly what was the going rate for teeth in 1975.

I don’t know when I bought Arthur’s Tooth.  I know that Marc Brown was the featured author in my preschool classroom.  In this book, Arthur is the only one in his class that hasn’t lost a tooth.  It is embarrassing and is branding him a “baby” with his other classmates, especially the annoying Francine.  His tooth was loose and no amount of wiggling it was making it come out!  All his friends offer to help.  Buster brings him hard carrots to eat.  Brain invents a special (scary looking) tooth removing machine.  Finally, Binky Barnes offer to knock it out!  Finally, his Mom takes him to the dentist.  Dr. Sozio assures Arthur that nothing is wrong and the tooth will come out.  He admits to Arthur, that he didn’t lose his first tooth until after he was eight.  Read this book to find out when Arthur loses his tooth and who helps him.

The girls and I loved this book.  They worried about not losing their teeth as well.  Each of them lost their first tooth well after all their friends had lost theirs.  It was comforting to them to see someone else who was late losing teeth.  One of them had a particularly stubborn loose tooth.  Please don’t try this at home, but we tied a piece of dental floss to her tiny tooth and the other end to a door.  We slammed the door shut and that tooth came flying out! The girl was happy the tooth was out! The tooth fairy collected her tooth and left a quarter. I think our dentist was horrified when we told her what we did.  She said, “Don’t do that again!!!” Fortunately, all other loose teeth in our house came out in a timely way!

Lucy Bate

I couldn’t find much on this author online.  Here is the little bit I found. Lucy was born on the 19th day of March in 1939.  She is best known for her children’s books.  She was also a playwright.  Here is her website:

Diane de Groat

Growing up in a time before DVDs, video games, or magic markers, Diane started her drawing with crayons and chalk.  Her driveway was her canvas.  She loved to watch the “Wonderful World of Disney”.  I remember that show!  Her favorite place in the classroom was the painting corner.  She also liked to draw Mickey Mouse and Donald Duck.  She says, “Every time I illustrate a book, I am learning something new.”

Little Rabbit’s Loose Tooth was the first picture book she illustrated.  She has illustrated many, many books for many different authors.  She wanted to illustrate her own books so she joined writer’s groups and took writing classes to learn more about this craft.  Roses Are Pink, Your Feet Really Stink was the first picture book she wrote and illustrated.

Read more about Diane on her website:

Marc Brown

He must have a wild and wonderous time in third grade.  Most of his characters are based on the people he knew at that time.  He says that his Arthur stories came from the bedtime stories that he told his son.  He says that children can relate to Arthur, because “he is dealing with the same issues that they’re dealing with in their lives.”¹

He graduated from the Cleveland Art Institute with a degree in painting.  Did he become a celebrated author right away?  No!  He had a series of other jobs before a story, told to his five-year old son about and aardvark who hated his nose, launched the Arthur series.¹

He credits his friend, Fred Rogers for making Arthur a TV program.  He claims that Mr. Rogers set a high standard for how to use television in useful ways for children and families.²

As I was reading about Marc Brown, I found that the first book he ever illustrated was for one of my other favorite authors, Isaac Asimov. I am going to have to find that book, What Makes the Sun Shine! I think this is so cool!  This is definitely a book I need to acquire for my collection.

You can visit these websites to find out more about this author.



Happy Valentine’s Day


  • Kraus, Robert. How Spider Saved Valentine’s Day. New York: Scholastic, Inc., 1985.
  • Brown, Margaret Wise. The Runaway Bunny.  Illustrated by Clement Hurd. New York: HarperCollins, 1942.

Happy Valentine’s Day to everyone!  Today I offer you two different stories for your pleasure.

The first is by Robert Kraus.  He gave us a spider for a hero.  In How Spider Saved Valentine’s Day Spider and his friends Lady Bug and Fly are excited for Valentine’s Day.  They attend Public Bug School No. 1. They have valentines for everyone in their class.  They each got one for their teacher, Miss Quito. As the Valentine’s Day festivities begin, they discover that they have forgotten valentines for the two caterpillars that sat in the back and slept all day.  Oh, No! What will they do?  Read this book and see how Spider saves the day!

Spider is brave and thoughtful.  This silly series is so much fun to read.  I think this is a terrific book to read to your young Valentine.

The second book is not specifically a Valentine’s Day, but it is a story of true and constant love.  I adore this book, The Runaway Bunny! Every time I read it I am completely charmed. This book is a verbal hide and seek between the mother bunny and her little one.  She lets her little one know that wherever, he/she roams Mama will always be there.  She will always love her little bunny. You can tell how much they care for each other.

If you become a bird and fly away from me,
said his mother, I will be a tree that you come home to.


Mama Bunny is loving and patient.  She is a role model that can be hard to live up to. I can remember some long, long days, when my girls were giving me grief.  My patience was in tatters.  I really wanted to sell them to the gypsies (not sure they would be taken).  Have you had one of those days?  On those days I took a deep breath and thought of this book and how much I really loved my little ones. We sat down, cuddled up and read this book.  It was good for all of us. After all as the little bunny said:

Shucks, said the bunny, I might just as well stay where I am and be your little bunny.

To you and to all your wonderful little ones, Happy Valentine’s Day.


Each Peach Pear Plum

eachpeachAhlberg, Janet and Allan.  Each Peach Pear Plum. New York: Scholastic, Inc., 1978.

In this book
With you little eye
Take a look
And play “I spy”

Do you remember playing “I Spy”? I remember playing this game on car trips with my girls.  It was fun and helped to pass the miles.  Here is “I Spy” you can play anywhere!  Who needs to wait for a car trip!  Snuggle up with this fun book and look for all the storybook characters.  Can you find Tom Thumb, Cinderella and the Three Bears?

I didn’t have this book when the girls were little.  I bought it when I was teaching preschool.  It is a wonderful rhyming book that is almost musical to read.

Tonight as I was writing this blog, Alexis wandered through the kitchen.  She looked at the book and said she didn’t remember it.  I handed it to her to read. As she did, she chuckled.  She liked the rhymes and the pictures. Her recommendation was that Baby Bear shouldn’t have a shotgun.  Now you will have to pick up a copy of the book and discover for yourself, why Alexis made this comment.  You can look for all the things you can spy with your little eye.

It’s a car trip don’t be glum
Remember Each Peach Pear Plum
We can play “I Spy”
It will make the miles go by!
We can’t look for Robin Hood,
But one of us will spy something good.

Janet and Allan Ahlberg

Janet and Allan were an English wife and husband team.  Allan wrote the stories and Janet illustrated them. They had a wonderful collaboration.  Unfortunately, Janet died at age 50.  Allan went on to write many more books.  His lively stories and Janet’s vivid drawings make their stories wonderful to read and to share.  If you are interested in this illustrator and author, you can read more about them on these websites.

Popcorn – A Book for National Popcorn Day

popcornAsch, Frank.  Popcorn. New York: Parents’ Magazine Press, 1979.

To celebrate National Popcorn Day I offer you this story.  It is one of Frank Asch’s delightful Bear stories.  Mama and Papa Bear go to a Halloween Party.  They leave Sam at home and promise him a treat when they return. He decides he needs a party.  He calls his friends and asks them to come in costume and bring a treat.  What treat does everyone bring?  They bring unpopped popcorn!

Can you imagine what happens after they put a large pot on the stove and begin to pop the corn?  Oh, my what a mess! The house is buried in popcorn.  This reminds me of Big Anthony’s disaster with Strega Nona’s pasta pot. Sam and Big Anthony have to clean up by eating all of their mess.  Fortunately, Sam has friends to help him! Does he get the house cleaned up before his parents come home?  What do you think his treat was?

When I was teaching preschool, I had to keep a bulletin board updated.  I chose to devote it to authors.  Every couple of weeks I would change my bulletin board to a new author, whose last name matched the letter of the alphabet we were studying.  Frank Asch was my choice for the letter A.  My preschoolers loved this bear story and all the other Bear stories I read to them.  I am sure we shared some popcorn at snack time after all you can’t read about popcorn without eating some, can you?

Frank Asch

It sounds to me like Frank Asch is a lucky, hardworking man.  He published is first story before he graduated from college with a BFA in painting. Here are 5 things you might or might not know about this author.

  1. His heroes were his big brother, Roy Rogers, Bob Dylan, Maurice Sendak, and Billé Pickard Pritchard.
  2. His favorite authors are Jack London and James Thurber. I love James Thurber.
  3. He collaborated on a book with Russian author, Vladimir Vagin. Mr. Asch has received the Russian National Book award.
  4. He lives in Vermont. He leads a group meditation on Sundays.
  5. His son Devlin is also an illustrator and they have collaborated on books together.

You can read more about this author/illustrator on these websites.

Five Little Ducks

fiveducksRaffi. Five Little Ducks. Illustrated by Jose Aruego and Ariane Dewey

Did you or your child have a favorite bath time toy? Today is a day given in celebration to that iconic bath toy, the rubber duck.  Happy National Rubber Ducky Day! This is the day in 1970 that Ernie’s friend, Rubber Duckie made its debut on Sesame Street. Don’t know, if it is video of Rubber Duckie’s debut, but here is a cute video of Ernie singing the Rubber Duckie song. My girls and I loved to sing this song. The song along with thoughts of that little yellow duckie made our day sunnier.

I am sad that don’t have a book about rubber duckies to share with you on this January day. I do however, have a book about ducks in song format.

Five Little Ducks, a Raffi Songs to Read book, is one of my favorites. It is an incredible experience to sing this book with young children. They sing it with much gusto and enthusiasm and movement. Can you make the Mama duck’s bill open and close with your hands while you sing “quack, quack, quack, quack”? A preschooler can! Where do those five little ducks go when they don’t come home to their Mama? Ask preschoolers this question. I am not certain you can prepare yourself adequately for their answers. Poor Mama Duck! Do you think she was worried? Yes, preschoolers think she was worried and if they don’t know the end of the story, they are worried as well. Spoiler Alert! Sad mother duck calls one more time and all five little ducks come back this time. Whew! A happy ending! Pick up a copy of this book and read it and sing it to a young child you know. If you aren’t sure of your own singing skills, you can always read along as Raffi and his audience sing this song:

Jose Aruego

Here is an illustrator that followed his passions. He was born in the Philippines in 1932. He was supposed to be a lawyer. He studied law and practices for a brief time before deciding to some to the United States to study graphic arts and advertising. He worked in advertising for a time before becoming a cartoonist for The Saturday Evening Post and The New Yorker¹.

He was a private person and I cannot find much information on this illustrator. Here is what he had to say about his work¹.

Each project teaches me something new and makes me a better artist. Each book brings me closer to children,” he said. “I have found from making appearances at schools that when kids draw for themselves, most of them like to make funny pictures. So I show them how to draw an alligator. It’s a simple drawing and the teachers tell me that after my visit, Aruego alligators show up all over the school.