Clifford not just big, but huge with the bedtime-storytelling set

Every once in awhile a children’s book comes along that dazzles you with a delightful combination of simple storytelling, intriguing characters and pulse-pounding action.

This is not one of them.

Which is fine by me. This book reviewer does not want an action-packed story. He just wants something that will make his 3-year-old daughter fall asleep, considering that it is 8:13 p.m. and he still has chores to do. He wants something that is slow, dull and sleep-inducing. He’s thinking about reading the phone book to her. Or the dictionary. Or a Gail Collins column.

Right now, though, she’s asking me to crawl into bed with her (my daughter that is, not Gail Collins), while clutching a copy of “Clifford the Firehouse Dog.”

This Clifford phase has lasted awhile, going all the way back to this past Halloween, when she wanted to dress up as him. This was fine by us, considering that the Disney “Girls Classic Ariel Ballerina” costume goes for $29.99, whereas a   frayed, used Clifford costume goes for a $1.50 at the Goodwill store.

Marilee had a blast trick-or-treating in her dog costume. It was realistic-looking, too. I knew this when I saw her being hauled away by Mesa County Animal Control. We sprung her free of course, but I’m still upset about having to pay the required $15 fee to have her spayed.

Anyway, back to the book review. The story begins with an all-too-familiar refrain: “Hi! My name is Emily Elizabeth, and this my dog Clifford.” That’s how ALL the Clifford books start off, which is sort of weird. No other best-seller begins that way. (“Hi! My name is Stephen King, and this is my dog Cujo.”)

The plot focuses on how Clifford uses his enormous size to assist the firemen and “help save the day.” The story is fine and all, yet this reviewer cannot help but wonder how much it must cost to feed this enormous mutt. And who is the poor guy who has to go in the backyard and clean up the dog’s messes? And would this require a backhoe?

This reviewer’s mind wanders a lot during the story. That’s because he has read this same book every night for the past eight days. Still, his daughter insists on hearing it again. Why not? Maybe there will be an exciting new plot twist this time.

And yet, while it represents engaging storytelling, this reviewer is frankly weary of reading how Clifford “saves the day.” There are over 70 books in the Clifford series, and if his daughter is not going to fall asleep to this one, why can’t we read one of the others? Like book No. 14, “Clifford Gets Neutered,” or number No. 37, “Clifford Tries to Have Intimate Relations with a Bean Bag.”

For now, though, we’re stuck with this one. We read how Clifford rushes to a burning skyscraper, where he uses a water tower to douse the flames, before blowing air into the building, all of which (WARNING: spoiler alert), extinguishes the fire. While this is all well and good, it seems it would be a lot easier if Clifford just lifted up his hind leg and peed on the fire. But I suppose that’s why I’m not a children’s book author.

In conclusion, this reviewer found that “Clifford the Big Red Dog” is a book you can’t put down. I mean that literally. If you try to put it down, there will be screaming and tears. So just fight through it and get to end, because what this piece of literature lacks in snappy dialogue and character development it makes for in a satisfying, (if predictable), resolution.

In fact, upon finishing the book, this reviewer looked over to see his daughter with her eyes closed, sleeping peacefully.

What do you know? Clifford really did save the day.

Reach Steve Beauregard at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).


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