I take my kids to the library weekly so they can pick out new books to enjoy at home. My daughter (8) graduated to chapter books and picks a variety of fiction and non-fiction, but my son (4) gravitates to the same four shelves every week, just as his sister did at the same age. Occasionally, he accepts my suggestions, but for the most part, I know we will come home with at least one Clifford or Berenstain Bear book.
Contrary to the slogan, I’m just going to say it — I don’t love Clifford. I’ll give props to Norman
Bridwell for creating an iconic character that kids love, but that doesn’t mean I’ll share the love. As a parent, I loathe reading them. As my husband points out, the art is terrible, but perhaps the kids like the drawing because the skewed perspective is a bit like theirs.
I’m more troubled by the continuity issues in the art rather than the style and quality of the art. Buildings change color, size or disappear completely. There are three distinct versions of the mother and at least as many versions of the father. It makes me think Emily Elizabeth and Clifford have spent a lot of time bouncing through the child welfare system.
Artistic choices aside, I find the message unsettling. The kids think Clifford’s foibles are funny. I take away the message “you can only do good if you are big.” Clifford the puppy slips and falls and has to be rescued. Clifford the Big Red Dog steps in to save a kitten from traffic, by causing an auto accident that so badly crunches the car, it’s a miracle the driver survived. It makes sense that he could support a bridge, but the idea a building would burn to the ground if Clifford didn’t step in to help the fire-fighters is asinine. And an insult to the brave men and women who train hard to be fire fighters.
Time after time, Clifford is the best because he’s big. I am not a big person. I’m shorter than the average adult. Does this mean I can’t do good? Does this mean my children cannot be helpful? That they will never be able to find the most easter eggs or lend a hand because they of merely average height? Is size really all that matters? I hope not.
p.s – I’ll tackle the Berenstain Bears later. In the meantime – what do you think? I’m ready for the onslaught of Clifford lovers to sway my opinion.