Dewey: The Small-Town Library Cat Who Touched the World
By: Vicki Myron
Publisher: Grand Central Publishing
Publication Date: September 2008
Reviewed by: Ellen Feld
Review Date: January 2009
The story of Dewey Readmore Books, a beautiful long-haired orange tabby cat, follows the adventures of one rugged little feline and how his personality, charm, love, and simple desire for attention affected the lives of so many people.
For twenty years, beginning in the 80’s, author Vicki Myron worked as Director of the Spencer Public Library in Spencer, Iowa where she oversaw a typical small town library, keeping on top of every day operations. Although the staff at the library were all friendly, as is the case with so many offices, there were little squabbles from time to time and several employees tended to stay to themselves. All that changed one horribly cold day in January 1988 when Myron heard strange sounds coming from the library’s drop box. At first Myron suspected a a chipmunk had squeezed through the small opening, instead she found a half-frozen kitten, huddled underneath numerous books, against the cold metal of the box. Myron and her staff rescued the kitten, warmed it up, had the vet check it, and then, after careful consideration, asked the library board to allow the kitten to take up residence at the library.
Dewey chronicles the various adventures and misadventures of Spencer’s library cat as he matures into a spunky yet loving cat. There are many charming, funny, and touching events in Dewey’s life that are delightfully recounted. Early in his life, Dewey develops a fondness for eating rubber bands and the staff is driven to distraction trying to hide them all. Dewey also loves to climb up onto the ceiling lights as well as ride along on the book cart. He is upset when a shy bat takes up residence in his library, and like so many cats, adores catnip and has spasms of delight when given the fragrant herb. Myron soon learns that Dewey has an uncanny ability to know which visitors need extra love, from handicapped children to elderly patrons who are lonely or sad. Groups of children who had once been restless and noisy quickly learn that if they want Dewey to visit, they must sit quietly.
It isn’t long before people in town begin to talk about their wonderful library cat and soon his fame spreads to surrounding towns, making way to other states and eventually other countries. Dewey is highlighted in countless magazines and even featured in a Japanese documentary. With all this publicity, people from distant lands begin to visit the Spencer Public Library in the hopes of seeing its celebrity cat.
To help the reader understand the effect Dewey had on the lives of residents, Myron writes about the local history, however, this is where the story falters. A brief history of Spencer would be helpful, but the author instead repeats the same mantra over and over throughout the book. There is far too much background information on small towns in Iowa. Does the reader really need to know all about the farm crisis of the 1980s, the history of the town’s slaughterhouse, or the “famous” Spencer fire of 1931? Myron even devotes a full chapter to the history of a neighboring town. Why is this included in a book about a cat? Yet another story line in Dewey is the autobiography of Myron. Again, a little background about Dewey’s number one caretaker is fine, but there is far too much in this book.
Quill says: An enjoyable cat story, but skip the history and biography chapters.