Friday, June 12, 2009

Review: Dewey, the Library Cat


I can’t remember where I first heard about Dewey the library cat, but I know it was during those wintery months of unemployment when my day consisted primarily of both the public library and my cats. It seemed like a perfect fit, though it took four months on the New York Public Library wait list to actually get the book.

Vicki Myron’s Dewey: The Small-Town Library Cat Who Touched the World is the true story of an orange tabby kitten that was left in the library drop box one frigid January night in Spencer, Iowa. He was then officially adopted as Spencer’s library cat, and there he remained for his nineteen years. As the residents of Spencer discovered, Dewey was a special cat, in that he was incredibly outgoing, enthusiastic, and always seemed to know who needed him the most. 
He became, in a sense, the town’s mascot, boosting morale during the farm crisis of the 1990s and bringing thousands of people to the local library. In fact, Dewey Readmore Books became an international celebrity as he was featured in numerous publications, radio shows, news broadcasts, and even documentaries. Every person who encountered Dewey seemed to have his or her own personal relationship with him.
Some of the most fascinating tidbits from this book are the descriptions of life in midwestern farm country. Corporate purchase and the ensuing construction are the typical trends of development in small towns, where the population grows after a Walmart is built. But in Iowa, land can be sold and entire towns can disappear to create even bigger cornfields.
Let’s get one thing straight: this is not a work of literary fiction. I’m not sure it even contains enough depth for a book club selection.  But, it does go deeper than just the biography of a Iowan cat. Myron uses many examples to illustrate how Dewey affected the mentality of individuals and the town as a whole, which is the real meat of this book. While she herself suffered through a divorce, single parenthood, and a cancer scare, hundreds of other people recognized Dewey as a pleasant distraction from their own troubles or as an unconventional source of support. Dewey is a quick and easy read that will make you think, make you chuckle, maybe make you cry (if you’re a sap like me), and will definitely make you appreciate all that you love.
And look how cute he is in that cover photo.


Salvatore said…

I find it kind of fascinating that not only was this cat a phenomenon in its hometown, but that it found its way on the New York Times bestseller list for such a long time. I'm amused that it's not really a work of literary fiction or even for a book club.

Kari said…

I'm guessing that it just has universal appeal. The story is sweet, it really is. And it goes beyond the cat, so everyone can relate to the human emotion involved in the story.

I didn't mean my comments of its literary integrity as a bad thing at all, but as I was mentioning its deeper points in my review, I didn't want to lead readers to believe that it is a whole lot more than the simple, uplifting story that it is.