Kokomo Tribune; Kokomo, Indiana

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February 15, 2009

Creator of Clifford books a symbol of local success

It was difficult to get up the stairs. The hallways were crowded leading up to the packed community room. Small children accompanied by their parents huddled together as they tried to get closer to children’s book icon Clifford the Big Red Dog.

Sunday, the Kokomo-Howard County Public Library hosted a party for the character’s creator, Norman Bridwell. Bridwell’s high school classmates and fellow Kokomo natives were celebrating his 81st birthday.

Andrea Bowlby wanted her 5-year-old children to be present for the event. She stood aside as her daughter Annalise rushed into the arms of Clifford the Big Red Dog. Her son Samuel hovered close.

“They love Clifford books,” she said.

Not only did Bowlby appreciate the colorful, imaginative and positive books, but she liked that Bridwell came from Kokomo.

Born and raised in Kokomo, Bridwell graduated from Kokomo High School in 1945.

“It’s nice to expose them to an author local to the area,” Bowlby said, kindergarten teacher for Pettit Park “It’s just neat to show them even in a place small like Kokomo you can make it. It’s inspiring to my students.”

That’s what Tom Tolen had in mind when he and other staff members from the library planned Sunday’s event.

“Everyone knew about Clifford the Big Red Dog. No one knew the author was born and raised here,” Tolen said. “Maybe we should showcase one of our favorite sons from Kokomo.”

Tolen didn’t imagine the second floor of the library would be so packed with hundreds of children and their parents and grandparents.

From 2:30 to 5 p.m. several community members read aloud some of Bridwell’s work.

Birthday cake, dog bone-shaped cookies and punch were available to the audience.

Tolen, who reads the books to his children, said his purpose for Sunday’s event was to teach children to “never give up on your dreams.”

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