Friday, July 29, 2011

Dewey by Vicki Myron

While keeping library cats is a fairly common practice, few of these cats gain worldwide fame and touch as many lives as Dewey Readmore Books, the library cat of Spencer, Iowa. Librarian Vicki Myron tells his remarkably moving story with Dewey: The Small-Town Library Cat Who Touched the World, a book guaranteed to appeal to cat lovers and even persuade a few library boards to get a cat of their own.

One cold winter morning in at the Spencer Public Library, a group of librarians discovered a tiny, shivering kitten trapped inside the library’s drop-box. They took him in and named him Dewey, and when they made the decision to keep him, they had no way of knowing how famous and influential this cat of humble beginnings would become. For the next nineteen years, Dewey would star in documentaries, become the subject of several books and charm every library regular from small children—including some with special needs—to elderly people who simply came in to read the newspapers.

Dewey endears to readers with his vivacious personality and endless capacity for affection, even while driving the librarians crazy with his stubborn streak and extremely picky eating habits. The battles over Dewey’s food make up some of the funniest parts of the book, and his thrill-seeking antics and creative choices of places to sleep—from shelves to boxes to typewriters—should be familiar to any cat owner. Dewey also possesses great empathy and emotional intelligence, and proves to be capable of extraordinary things when he helps bring a young handicapped girl out of her shell, and later helps mend the relationship between Myron and her teenage daughter.

In addition to providing readers with funny and heartwarming stories of Dewey, Myron also attempts to walk us through the history of the town of Spencer, with its tight-knit community and hard economic times, as a means of providing background to Dewey’s story and illustrating how one playful library cat made down-on-their-luck farmers smile. While this community element had the potential to enrich Dewey’s story, it instead felt tacked on and out of place. Myron is excessive with the details, and these portions of the book are clumsily written and plod on with the pacing of a turtle race. I quickly grew bored and exasperated with the history lesson and was eager to get back to Dewey.

Dewey’s personality sets a perfect example for a library cat, as they must be outgoing and comfortable with large groups of people, children included. Yet Dewey went above and beyond the call of a library cat; he changed the lives of those who loved him, and his story is one that will continue to move, entertain and even inspire.

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