Childrearing

Lingering Questions Parents Have About Clifford The Big Red Dog

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Childhood is a time of wonderment and imagination. There are no rules and no laws, and that’s part of what makes children’s books so incredibly weird. Don’t get me wrong; I love magic and fairytales, but occasionally my adult brain gets the better of me and I can’t suspend reality long enough to stop WTFing at everything my kids ask me to read. Today I’m scratching my head about a classic: Clifford The Big Red Dog.

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There have been many iterations of Clifford — I have at least 15 of the books and there’s a whole multi-season television show on PBS — but I’m talking about the origin story of this fire-colored hell beast. In it, we’re introduced to Clifford and his sidekick, Emily Elizabeth. I would call her his owner, but does anyone really own a dog that big? Emily occasionally talks about ‘friends,’ but it’s usually just to laugh at them and their normal, non-steroidal animal companions. She says over and over again that she has the best, biggest, reddest, most doggiest dog in the history of dogs, and I have a few questions for her about that:

1. First of all, why is he red?

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I mean, not to harp too much on the obvious here, but Crayola Red is kind of an unusual shade for an animal. On, like, page four of the book Emily starts talking about how other kids have red dogs too, but hers is the best. I disagree, Emily. No one has an actual red dog. Where are all these red dogs coming from? Do you guys live near toxic waste? Have you considered ground water contamination? It could also account for his size. Do I need to call Erin Brockovich?

2. Speaking of Clifford’s size, who thought that was a good idea?

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It’s not addressed in the book, but the theme song to the show suggests Emily’s “love” is what made Clifford grow so big and Wikipedia confirms an estimated height of 25 feet. Her parents are just cool with that? I guess they’d have to be since Clifford could crush their bones with a single paw, but I, for one, would like to know what exactly Emily’s love concoction contains that is yielding such startling results. I’d also like to know if she’s considered marketing it to professional athletes as a safer alternative to Performance Enhancing Drugs.

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