On a brutally cold January morning in 1988, librarian Vicki Myron found a barely alive, filthy little kitten in the library book drop in Spencer, Iowa. That discovery proved to be a stroke of luck for the kitten, who promptly got warmed, washed, fed and cuddled by Vicki. And what a beautiful orange and white kitten emerged from that initial care! The fortunate animal, dubbed Dewey Readmore Books, had a name that was almost as big as he was little. Though the library board wasn't wildly enthusiastic about the situation, they did give approval for Dewey to take up residence at the library.
Dewey was instantly at home in the 13,000 square-foot building that he was allowed to roam and explore at will. He made friends easily because he trusted everyone and had a gentle, kittenish way about him that was nearly impossible to resist. On weekends and holidays, Vicki took him home with her. Dewey spent weeknights alone in the quiet, darkened library, but he was in place each morning by the front door to give his right paw a tiny wave to Vicki as he watched her cross the street and head toward the library.
It wasn't long until Dewey, a very fussy eater, had the library staff spoiling him with different brands and flavors of cat food. Cats are creatures of habit, and Dewey quickly fell into a daily routine that involved, among other things, greeting patrons, attending meetings and napping frequently. He loved story hour almost as much as the youngsters did and attended one for the special needs children. He befriended a little handicapped girl named Crystal who delighted in his attention and affection. Dewey seemed to have a sixth sense --- the uncanny ability to zero in on who needed him most and give that person his undivided attention.
When the library underwent some remodeling work, Vicki took Dewey home for three weeks. He became captivated by open windows with screens, the sight and sound of birds, and the intriguing scent of fresh air. Returned to his library home, whose windows did not open after the construction was completed, Dewey became restless. He tried slipping out the front door, but too many pairs of eyes kept him in view. However, he did manage to slip out the back door one evening when the night janitor was taking out the trash, and for four days the library staff and a number of townsfolk hunted everywhere for him. Eventually he reappeared at the library, dirty, frightened and rather scuffed up. No one really knew what harm and/or horror had befallen Dewey during his few days of freedom, but he never again went too close to an open door.
Dewey never minded posing for the camera, and one thing led to another. His first professionally-taken photograph graces the front cover of this book, and it's quite easy to see why such a handsome animal should win photo contests, become the subject of newspaper articles, appear in cat calendars and become a rather famous feline. After all, not many cats have an entire book written about them.
Dewey spent 19 years at the library, and he certainly put Spencer, Iowa on the map. Although a few recent books have made household names out of two canines named Marley and Enzo, it's a pretty safe bet that before long Dewey's fame will have spread further and further abroad and his tale will become legendary for that most unique breed of felines --- the library cats.
Reviewed by Carole Turner on September 24, 2008
Dewey: The Small-Town Library Cat Who Touched the World