Dewey: The Small-Town Library Cat Who Touched the World

(No Series)

How much of an impact can an animal have? How many lives can one cat touch? How is it possible for an abandoned kitten to transform a small library, save a classic American town, and eventually become famous around the world? You can't even begin to answer those questions until you hear the charming story of Dewey Readmore Books, the beloved library cat of Spencer, Iowa.

Dewey's story starts in the worst possible way. Only a few weeks old, on the coldest night of the year, he was stuffed into the returned book slot at the Spencer Public Library. He was found the next working by library director Vicki Myron, a single mother who had survived the loss of her family farm, a breast cancer scare, and an alcoholic husband. Dewey won her heart, and the hearts of the staff, by pulling himself up and hobbling on frostbitten feet to nudge each of hem in a gesture of thanks and love. For the next nineteen years, he never stopped charming the people of Spencer with this enthusiasm, warmth, humility (for a cat), and, above all, his sixth sense about who needed him most.

As his fame grew from town to town, then state to state, and finally, amazingly, worldwide, Dewey became more than just a friend; he became a source of pride for an extraordinary Heartland farming town pulling its way slowly back from the greatest crisis in its long history.

“A great library doesn't have to be big or beautiful. It doesn't have to have the best facilities or the most efficient staff or the most users. A great library provides. It is enmeshed in the life of a community in a way that makes it indispensable. A great library is one nobody notices because it is always there, and always has what people need.”

A non-fiction book about an adorable cat and a small town's history. The cat helps change that history and give the town's heart a bit more beat. Until they acted like asses at the end of his life and started taking that for granted (typical people!) It really comes across as an almost miraculous story when the little bundle of kitten was discovered in the mail slot like discarded trash. I'm sure the librarians never imagined how popular the cat would eventually become and how much it would affect the life of the librarian, Vicki.

While some of the town lore was interesting, I admit to skimming some of it. The fun antics of Dewey captivated me - I'm a cat lover myself so could relate to some of the chilling spots, box obsessions and personality quirks, but there were new cat weirdness situations that was new to me. For example, Dewey LOVES rubber bands, so much so that they had to keep them under lock and key.

The cat's adorable, and if you ever wanted to know how a cat would adapt to living in a library, here you go. Cats and books go together, right?

It's not just a long book about staring at a cat, but how Dewey changed the lives of several with their own histories. When Dewey started becoming one of the furry famous, the stories of interviews and different cat food commercials were more interesting that you'd think judging off description alone. Sweet stories overload - There's a tragically handicapped girl who smiled for the first time in years with Dewey's attention, people not wanting to disturb the cards because Dewey was laying in the box, people coming across the country in family trips to find the legendary cat.

Dewey' doesn't just dish out the sweet stuff, though - it talks about the naysayers, the political library committees (grrr), and of course how people were less accepting of the cat who had done so much for the town with revenue and aid when he gets older and less pleasingly fuzzy.

The ending is, of course, sad. I knew what was coming so that softened the blow, but I was surprised (and touched) with how much Vicki was affected for life. I won't spoil the ending with how she changes her life in a huge way, but it adds a sense of loyalty and charm to a book that was already unique and special.

Besides being a treat for cat lovers, it digs into the details of how special libraries are and how much they offer patrons, especially in small towns that struggle. Through economic woes, factory shut-downs, numerous changes, the librarian and Dewey stuck around to do what they could in the small amount of time life allotted them. After reading the stories of Dewey and all his little habits, Vicki's life and her struggles with her daughter and cancer, I came to really feel like I knew both of them in a way. That's one of the best things a non-fiction book can do for a person, be authentic enough to give that personal connection.

Read it for the cat, read it for the memories of the small town in Iowa, read it for the library ambience - it's worth a look even if it's just for the adorable pictures that grace the chapter headings.

   Book Quotes:

“Books have survived television, radio, talking pictures, circulars (early magazines), dailies (early newspapers), Punch and Judy shows, and Shakespeare's plays. They have survived World War II, the Hundred Years' War, the Black Death, and the fall of the Roman Empire. They even survived the Dark Ages, when almost no one could read and each book had to be copied by hand. They aren't going to be killed off by the Internet.”

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