‘Dewey’ will give you the warm fuzzies
“Dewey: The Small-Town Library Cat Who Touched the World,” By Vicki Myron and Bret Witter. Grand Central Publishing. 2008. 277 pp. $19.99.
By Deirdre Parker Smith
Animal lovers are suckers for animal books. The only problem is they all end the same way, leaving the reader in tears.
The nice thing about “Dewey” is it’s not a sob story. It’s a cute book about an adorable cat.
No pet lives forever, of course, so it ends like all the rest of those books, but author Vicki Myron celebrates his life while she mourns.
Dewey Readmore Books, a very senior citizen at 19, had spent his years as the library cat in Spencer, Iowa, a little town surrounded by cornfields. Rescued from the icy cold book return slot on a bitterly cold winter night, Dewey repays his saviors with love, attention and all the good publicity he can muster.
The cat is a ham. If you know cats, Dewey will amaze you. If you don’t know cats, Dewey will make you want to be owned by one.
He’s friendly, cooperative, gentle, a homebody, likes children and has an instinct for knowing who needs him and for how long.
He even helped the special education children calm down and be quiet for their story time.
Myron tells an exceptionally sweet story of Crystal, a girl in a wheelchair who cannot speak and has very little movement. Somehow, Dewey figures out what she needs. The first time he jumps on the tray across her wheelchair, Crystal squeals, the first sound anyone in the library has ever heard her make.
Then she becomes one of Dewey’s favorites. “When she saw Dewey, who waited for her at the front door, she immediately started to vocalize. It wasn’t her usual high-pitched squeal but a deeper sound. I believed she was calling to Dewey. Dewey must have thought so, too, because as soon as he heard it, he was at her side. Once her wheelchair was parked, he jumped on her train, and happiness exploded from within her.”
If you think this book is all cat stories, you should know “Dewey” is also Vicki Myron’s story, as well as the town of Spencer’s. No matter how entertaining and amazing the cat is, the human factor plays a big role.
Myron is a success story ó she overcomes a sad, bad marriage, a botched surgery that leaves her with lifelong health problems, raises a daughter alone and puts herself through library school.
She’s not bitter, she doesn’t feel anyone owes her anything and she rises to all the best occasions. She fights for what she believes in: improving her small library, keeping Dewey as a fixture there, and making sure Spencer thrives.
Dewey comes at the right time for her. She needs unconditional acceptance and love, and Dewey, bless his fuzzy heart, seems to know that.
“I had no doubt about our boy. From the moment he looked up into my eyes that first morning, so calm and content, I knew he was right for the library. There wasn’t a flutter in his heart as I held him in my arms; there wasn’t a moment of panic in his eyes. He trusted me completely. He trusted everyone on staff completely. That’s what made him so special: his complete and unabashed trust. And because of it, I trusted him, too.”
Dewey does not live without conflicts. Certain members of the community, certain community leaders, are suspicious of the whole idea of a cat in a library. Some parents fuss that their children might be allergic. But Dewey holds his head high and keeps on being himself. That seems to work pretty well. Myron takes him home on occasion. Dewey falls madly in love with her daughter, Jodi. In fact, Jodi brings only one boyfriend to meet Dewey. He’s that important. When Dewey approves, Myron and her daughter know he’s the right guy.
We learn about Spencer’s history, Myron’s family history, the dynamics of small-town life, the economic ups and downs of Iowa. Myron packs a lot into these pages. It drags a little in spots, but overall, is an easy read.
Having more photos would be a plus. Small black and whites of Dewey in the library adorn each chapter. A spread would have been nice, although it would have increased the book’s cost.
Myron thanks a lot of people at the end of the book, including her co-writer, Bret Witter, and all the staff at the library.
Dewey was that one-in-a-million cat, and when Myron is offered dozens of replacements, she wisely decides that she had the best, and there will be no Dewey II.