Norman Bridwell, creator of the beloved children’s book character Clifford the Big Red Dog, has died. He was 86. Scholastic Trade Book Publishing said the author and illustrator died Friday on Martha’s Vineyard.

“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,” Scholastic chief Dick Robinson said. “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 50 years.”

Bridwell created Clifford in 1963 and went on to publish more than 150 Clifford titles, which have sold a combined 129 million copies and been translated into 13 languages. The stories follow the adventures of Clifford, who is loved so much as a puppy by his young owner Emily Elizabeth — named after Bridwell’s daughter — that he grows to more than 25 feet tall. Clifford and his canine pals and Emily Elizabeth and her friends live on rural Birdwell Island, where everyone knows the friendly giant hound. In 2000, PBS Kids debuted an animated Clifford The Big Red Dog series that aired for three seasons and continues to air daily on public television. Universal is prepping a live-action/animated 3D adaptation of the character directed by David Bowers from Matt Lopez’s script. Scholastic Media’s Deborah Forte is producing the pic, which is set to open April 8, 2016.

Born on February 15, 1928, in Kokomo, IN, Bridwell at first struggled to crack the publishing trade. Nine companies turned down his Clifford manuscript before Scholastic leashed it, becoming his publishing home for more than half a century. The character originally was named Tiny, but Bridwell’s wife suggested he name it Clifford after her imaginary childhood friend. Bridwell had completed two more Clifford books, which will be released in 2015.

Bridwell is survived by his wife, Norma; their daughter, Emily Elizabeth; son, Timothy; and three grandchildren.