Saturday, June 9, 2012

BOOKreMARKS: DEWEY Rises Above Other Animal Memoirs

The day I purchased two stacks of animal-related books from the library sales cellar, I threw in Dewey: The Small-Town Library Cat Who Touched the World at the last minute. I’d tried to borrow it from my Chicago library branch years ago when it was first published, but someone else always got to it before me. After buying it, I wondered why I did when I could easily have borrowed it in the Bluegrass. After all, it was only a sweet little tale about a rescued cat’s life in a library. Like so many similar memoirs, it would be touching at first read, but it wouldn’t linger in my mind. It wasn’t a keeper.

How wrong I was—on so many counts.

I have to confess upfront that I missed all the media fanfare about Dewey back in the ’90s. So every page was new to me. That said, I was hooked by the heft author Vicki Myron gave the book, for she told not only Dewey’s story but also that of her town and her family. Readers come away enriched with insights about: living in a small town; the metamorphosis from family-owned farms to corporate farming; the effects of joblessness on rural communities and libraries; city and library politics; and, of course, the influence animals exert over humans. I got so much more than I bargained for—plus it’s not dripping with saccharine language and it’s not full of typos as are so many books of this genre.

“Sometimes a cat is more than an animal…”

Above all the insights, though, Dewey remains the star of the book. He was certainly much more than a cat. He was also a library promoter, Web traffic manager, storytime consultant, family counselor, workforce mediator, and affection magnet. His intelligence, his comic antics, and his empathy are lovingly illuminated. In fact, a film is in the works and Myron has penned two additional books featuring the golden feline.

Add Dewey to your summer reading list. It’s a fast read that you won’t soon forget. But be warned: You might be struck with the unusual desire to visit Spencer, Iowa.

[Photos of Dewey from his Web site.]

A Dewey Sidenote: Twisted Thinking
As testament to the secrets that small-town residents can harbor, no one ever discovered who threw baby Dewey down the library book-drop chute that frigid evening in 1988. But curiously, once Dewey later met with stardom and acquired a fan base, numerous people stepped forward to claim credit for abandoning him!

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