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

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9780446407410: Dewey: The Small-Town Library Cat Who Touched the World

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 morning 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 them in a gesture of thanks and love. For the next nineteen years, he never stopped charming the people of Spencer with his 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.

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About the Author:

Vicki Myron was born on a farm fifteen miles from Spencer, Iowa. At the age of thirty-four, after a failed marriage, single motherhood, and a stint on welfare, she graduated summa cum laude from Mankato State University and has a masters degree from Emporia State University. She worked at the Spencer Public Library for twenty-five years, the last twenty as director. She lives in Spencer, Iowa.

Bret Witter is a book editor and professional writer. Raised in north Alabama, he currently lives in Louisville, Kentucky, with his wife, two children and his fourteen-year-old cat Kiki. His other cat, Feasor, died four days after the completion of this book.

Review:

An abandoned kitten serves as balm, comic relief and social director to a hard-pressed Midwestern town.

The feline came in through the book drop on a bone-crackingly cold winter's night. The place was the public library of Spencer, Iowa, where the corn grows nine feet high and the earth is so fertile "you would swear the ground is about to push up and tip the sky right out of the picture." But this was in the 1980s, when the farm crisis was in full tilt; lenders had foreclosed on 50 percent of the family farms in northwest Iowa by the end of the decade. Local librarian Myron paints a town in crisis: economically, socially and in terms of the human spirit. She was in crisis too and neatly tucks her own recovery into the larger story of the town's gradual rejuvenation. Named Dewey (after the decimal system), the kitten became the library mascot and a synecdoche: "He never lost his trust, no matter what the circumstances, or his appreciation for life...He was confident." Myron doesn't overplay this metaphor, but works it subtly as she depicts the town's fortunes reviving and shows Dewey playing his role in that revival with composure, social skills, patience and a measure of mischief. In an easeful voice and with an eye for detail, she delineates Spencer: its economic swings, the lay of the land, the Prairie Deco downtown. Dewey is the pivot; he even became a bit of a national celebrity, and the New York Times ran his obit. He was, this loving account demonstrates, the right cat in the right place for Spencer and most certainly for its librarian.

Intimate portrait of a place snugly set within its historical moment, preserved in Myron's understated, well-polished prose.

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