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

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

by Vicki Myron, Bret Witter


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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.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780446407427
Publisher: Grand Central Publishing
Publication date: 10/07/2010
Pages: 297
Sales rank: 90,097
Product dimensions: 5.20(w) x 7.90(h) x 0.90(d)

About the Author

Vicky Myron grew up on a family farm in northwest Iowa. She began as an assistant librarian at the Spencer library. Within a few years, she was promoted to director of the library. As a single mother, Vicky worked towards a masters degree for librarians during weekends and nights. It was then that she met Dewey, who made his home at the library and kept her company late nights while she studied. Vicky has served on the Executive Board of the Iowa Library Association, and on numerous statewide advisory panels. She is one of six library management instructors in the Iowa library system.

Bret Witter has ghostwritten nine books. Before becoming a professional writer, Bret spent three years as the Editorial Director of HCI, the publisher of the Chicken Soup for the Soul series. Bret lives in Louisville, Kentucky.

Read an Excerpt


The Small-Town Library Cat Who Touched the World

By Vicki Myron Bret Witter
Grand Central Publishing
Copyright © 2008

Vicki Myron
All right reserved.

ISBN: 978-0-446-40741-0

Chapter One The Coldest Morning

January 18, 1988, was a bitterly cold Iowa Monday. The night before, the temperature had reached minus fifteen degrees, and that didn't take into account the wind, which cut under your coat and squeezed your bones. It was a killing freeze, the kind that made it almost painful to breathe. The problem with flat land, as all of Iowa knows, is that there's nothing to stop the weather. It blows out of Canada, across the Dakotas, and straight into town. The first bridge in Spencer across the Little Sioux, built in the late 1800s, had to be taken down because the river became so jammed with ice everyone worried the pylons would collapse. When the town water tower burned down in 1893-the straw packing used to keep the riser pipe from freezing caught fire, and all the nearby fire hydrants were frozen solid-a two-foot-thick, ten-foot-wide circle of ice slid out the top of the tank, crushed the community recreation center, and shattered all over Grand Avenue. That's winter in Spencer for you.

I have never been a morning person, especially on a dark and cloudy January day, but I have always been dedicated. There were a few cars on the road at seven thirty, when I drove the ten blocks to work, but as usual mine was the first car in the parking lot. Across the street, the Spencer Public Library was dead-no lights, no movement, no sound until I flipped a switch and brought it to life. The heater switched on automatically during the night, but the library was still a freezer first thing in the morning. Whose idea was it to build a concrete and glass building in northern Iowa? I needed my coffee.

I went immediately to the library staff room-nothing more than a kitchenette with a microwave and a sink, a refrigerator too messy for most people's taste, a few chairs, and a phone for personal calls-hung up my coat, and started the coffee. Then I scanned the Saturday newspaper. Most local issues could affect, or could be affected by, the library. The local newspaper, the Spencer Daily Reporter, didn't publish on Sunday or Monday, so Monday was catch-up morning for the Saturday edition.

"Good morning, Vicki," said Jean Hollis Clark, the assistant library director, taking off her scarf and mittens. "It's a mean one out there."

"Good morning, Jean," I said, putting aside the paper.

In the center of the staff room, against the back wall, was a large metal box with a hinged lid. The box was two feet high and four feet square, about the size of a two-person kitchen table if you sawed the legs in half. A metal chute rose out of the top of the box, then disappeared into the wall. At the other end, in the alley behind the building, was a metal slot: the library's after-hours book return.

You find all kinds of things in a library drop box-garbage, rocks, snowballs, soda cans. Librarians don't talk about it, because it gives people ideas, but all libraries deal with it. Video stores probably have the same problem. Stick a slot in a wall and you're asking for trouble, especially if, as it did at the Spencer Public Library, the slot opened onto a back alley across the street from the town's middle school. Several times we had been startled in the middle of the afternoon by a loud pop from the drop box. Inside, we'd find a firecracker.

After the weekend, the drop box would also be full of books, so every Monday I loaded them onto one of our book carts so the clerks could process and shelve them later in the day. When I came back with the cart on this particular Monday morning, Jean was standing quietly in the middle of the room.

"I heard a noise."

"What kind of noise?"

"From the drop box. I think it's an animal."

"A what?"

"An animal. I think there's an animal in the drop box."

That was when I heard it, a low rumble from under the metal cover. It didn't sound like an animal. It sounded more like an old man struggling to clear his throat. But I doubted it was an old man. The opening at the top of the chute was only a few inches wide, so that would be quite a squeeze. It was an animal, I had little doubt of that, but what kind? I got down on my knees, reached over to the lid, and hoped for a chipmunk.

The first thing I felt was a blast of freezing air. Someone had jammed a book into the return slot, wedging it open. It was as cold in the box as it was outside; maybe colder, since the box was lined with metal. You could have kept frozen meat in there. I was still catching my breath when I saw the kitten.

It was huddled in the front left corner of the box, its head down, its legs tucked underneath it, trying to appear as small as possible. The books were piled haphazardly to the top of the box, partially hiding it from view. I lifted one gingerly for a better look. The kitten looked up at me, slowly and sadly. Then it lowered its head and sank down into its hole. It wasn't trying to appear tough. It wasn't trying to hide. I don't even think it was scared. It was just hoping to be saved.

I know melting can be a cliché, but I think that's what actually happened to me at that moment: I lost every bone in my body. I am not a mushy person. I'm a single mother and a farm girl who has steered her life through hard times, but this was so, so ... unexpected.

I lifted the kitten out of the box. My hands nearly swallowed it. We found out later it was eight weeks old, but it looked no more than eight days old, if that. It was so thin I could see every rib. I could feel its heart beating, its lungs pumping. The poor kitten was so weak it could barely hold up its head, and it was shaking uncontrollably. It opened its mouth, but the sound, which came two seconds later, was weak and ragged.

And cold. That's what I remember most, because I couldn't believe a living animal could be so cold. It felt like there was no warmth at all. So I cradled the kitten in my arms to share my heat. It didn't fight. Instead, it snuggled into my chest, then laid its head against my heart.

"Oh, my golly," said Jean.

"The poor baby," I said, squeezing tighter.

"It's adorable."

Neither of us said anything for a while. We were just staring at the kitten. Finally Jean said, "How do you think it got in there?"

I wasn't thinking about last night. I was only thinking about right now. It was too early to call the veterinarian, who wouldn't be in for an hour. But the kitten was so cold. Even in the warmth of my arms, I could feel it shaking.

"We've got to do something," I said.

Jean grabbed a towel, and we wrapped the little fellow up until only its nose was sticking out, its huge eyes staring from the shadows in disbelief.

"Let's give it a warm bath," I said. "Maybe that will stop the shivering."

I filled the staff room sink with warm water, testing it with my elbow as I clutched the kitten in my arms. It slid into the sink like a block of ice. Jean found some shampoo in the art closet, and I rubbed the kitten slowly and lovingly, almost petting it. As the water turned grayer and grayer, the kitten's wild shivering turned to soft purring. I smiled. This kitten was tough. But it was so very young. When I finally lifted it out of the sink, it looked like a newborn: huge lidded eyes and big ears sticking out from a tiny head and an even smaller body. Wet, defenseless, and meowing quietly for its mother.

We dried it with the blow dryer we used for drying glue at craft time. Within thirty seconds, I was holding a beautiful, long-haired orange tabby. The kitten had been so filthy, I had thought it was gray.

By this time Doris and Kim had arrived, and there were four people in the staff room, each cooing over the kitten. Eight hands touched it, seemingly at once. The other three staffers talked over one another while I stood silently cradling the kitten like a baby and rocking back and forth from foot to foot.

"Where did it come from?"

"The drop box."


"Is it a boy or a girl?"

I glanced up. They were all looking at me. "A boy," I said.

"He's beautiful."

"How old is he?"

"How did he get in the box?"

I wasn't listening. I only had eyes for the kitten.

"It's so cold."

"Bitterly cold."

"The coldest morning of the year."

A pause, then: "Someone must have put him in the box."

"That's awful."

"Maybe they were trying to save him. From the cold."

"I don't know ... he's so helpless."

"He's so young."

"He's so beautiful. Oh, he's breaking my heart."

I put him down on the table. The poor kitten could barely stand. The pads on all four of his paws were frostbitten, and over the next week they would turn white and peel off. And yet the kitten managed to do something truly amazing. He steadied himself on the table and slowly looked up into each face. Then he began to hobble. As each person reached to pet him, he rubbed his tiny head against her hand and purred. Forget the horrible events in his young life. Forget the cruel person who shoved him down that library drop box. It was as if, from that moment on, he wanted to personally thank every person he ever met for saving his life.

By now it had been twenty minutes since I pulled the kitten out of the drop box, and I'd had plenty of time to think through a few things-the once common practice of keeping library cats, my ongoing plan to make the library more friendly and appealing, the logistics of bowls and food and cat litter, the trusting expression on the kitten's face when he burrowed into my chest and looked up into my eyes. So I was more than prepared when someone finally asked,

"What should we do with him?"

"Well," I said, as if the thought had just occurred to me, "maybe we can keep him."


Excerpted from Dewey by Vicki Myron Bret Witter Copyright © 2008 by Vicki Myron. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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Dewey 4.3 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 612 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book is for everybody. Whether you are a child or an adult, whether you like cats or not, even whether you like reading or not! It is a really heartwarming story that reads very easy and that will fill your heart with great affection. It is a story of an extraordinary cat, a librarian, and their lives in a small Iowa town. It's a story that brought the little town of Spencer onto the world map. The Japanese television filmed Dewey, and after he died, his obituary ran in over 200 papers. But most of all, this isn't just another cat story; it's a story of survival, endurance, trust, and hope. Finally, it is a story about love and living a good life. You will understand all that after you read the final few chapters.

I highly recommend this book! You will fall in love with Dewey after reading the first few pages. I promise you that! For more heartwarming stories about another ginger cat I suggest the series of "Why Some Cats are Rascals". Read them all - you will want to share the stories with your loved ones.
KatelynLucile More than 1 year ago
This book is a treasure! As an animal lover, I really got a lot out of the touching story. Also, the information about what it's like in a small town library was very enlightening. You'll laugh, you'll probably cry, but you'll go away with a greater appreciation for our furry friends.
LuckyCat More than 1 year ago
I read the book in a day, not being able to put it down. Even though I knew what the outcome would be, I allowed myself to cherish the story, day by day; year by year. I so appreciate the honest, realistic and, sometimes, commonplace depictions of Deweys life; representing the wonderful, warm moments he shared throughout his life in the Spencer library; as well as the descriptions of his physical ailments. These are what happens to a kitty body; just as our own human bodies. My only hope is that some of the financial gain earned from this book and a possible movie, as well as other outcroppings of Dewey's life, is used to create a no kill shelter for all the abandoned kittens and animals in need who are not as furtunate as Dewey was. The three kittens since which were placed in the Spencer library drop box, as well as the hundreds purportedly offered to the Spencer library need homes, care and love just as Dewey did. I hope Vicki Myron sees to this and expands Dewey's influence to others of his species who are in need.
dhtDT More than 1 year ago
This book was very touching. It made you feel like you knew the Dewey the cat and Vicki and the people at the Spencer Library. I love cats. I have 2 of them and I know the love that cats can bring to people. It was sad at the end when Dewey died. I even shed a few tears. I have mentioned this book to some family and friends and some of them have read the book or plan to read it.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This is an easy and delightful read for anyone who has ever loved an animal. Ostensibly about a cat, the book is really about the people of Spencer, Iowa and their head librarian who is the author and Dewey's owner. The story imparts peace even though it details difficult events --failed marriages, illness, family estrangements, suicide, economic turmoil. Its message, whether or not intended, was to me that we all face life and its challenges but there are moments with meaning, peace and love that reflect the overwhelming simplicity of it all, if only we stop to catch our breath and pet the cat. Straightforward and not at all saccharine, this is a wonderfully refreshing read.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I really enjoyed reading this book. I personally have a cat that is very similar in personalty as Dewey. Reading the book reminded of when my cat was young and did all similar things and it made me remember and laugh. I laughed and cried while reading this book. My whole book club enjoyed reading the book.
dv More than 1 year ago
It was a wonderful book. I appreciated the different topics not being long drawn out as I have found a lot of books where we know the inevitable is going to happen, ie, the animal dies.
ShabaksKitchen More than 1 year ago
Clearly, Dewey is no ordinary cat. But the author, who discusses very personal experiences and hardships of her life is no ordinary woman. This book was so touching, so wonderful, I am buying for everyone in my family for Christmas!
PatLA More than 1 year ago
I thought about Dewey long after finishing the book. He was so special and when he had to go over the rainbow at 19, I felt as sad as if he had been my own cat. Vicki wrote a wonderful story of a very special cat. It was refreshing to read a delightful true story about a terrific cat instead of a dog for a change. I know I will read it again and again. I can't wait for the movie!
Twister2003 More than 1 year ago
Anyone who loves animals, especially cats will love this book. I never met Dewey, and now I wish I had, but the book makes you feel as if you went right along this journey with Vicki, Dewey and the rest of the Spencer Library. You will laugh and cry. This book should become a movie!! Great Read!!
bnakasuji More than 1 year ago
karenskids More than 1 year ago
A must read for anyone that has "furry" four legged children. Touching and absorbing .... read it straight through.
green1 More than 1 year ago
Sweet. Easy reading. If you love cats, as I do, you will love this cute fuzzball.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Dewey is a heartwarming favorite, perfect for christmas gift giving. I wish all cats were like this one. I thought the idea was fantastic and carried out by Vicki and Bret to perfection. It was a touching story that had me laughing, crying, and everything in between. Don't think twice if you run across this book. Pick it up.
Eagledivah More than 1 year ago
As a cat owner and library employee, I just loved the book. I couldn't wait to read it. I pictured Dewey in my own library as I read. I laughed out loud in several places. The book is funny, touching, and inspiring. The book illustrates the importance of libraries in our communities, and in our lives-all through the telling of Dewey's story. The book also shows that one person, and in this case, one cat, can make a difference. "Dewey" is a must read for cat lovers, cat owners, library employees, and anyone who is having a hard time in life and needs some inspiration. I wish my library had a cat!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I love this book! I laughed, cried, then laughed again. A perfect story of love.
Bookworm1951 More than 1 year ago
A touching story. Dewey's impact went far beyond the little town of Spencer, Iowa. He became a worldwide phenomenon. This is a story that anyone can enjoy. However, I think the title is a bit misleading. The author spent so much of the book telling her personal history, family woes and triumphs that Dewey's story fell by the wayside. Most of her history really had nothing to do with Dewey. If she had spent less time on herself and more on the cat or titled the book so it you knew it was her biography with Dewey as a side-bar, it would have been a better book. Well edited. No foul language.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I just finished getting to know Dewey and his "mom", and love them both! We have a 10 month old "little tuxedo man" (Bo), and can completely relate to the bond and love that develops between cat owners and their little masters! We laugh at them and worry about them and cry for them-Dewey has left a wonderful legacy! This is an awesome story!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I have an orange cat and he's pretty funny. When i read dewey i really connected with the author and it was kinda obvious she wanted to show off her amazing cat. With a cat like Dewey who wouldnt? I want my cat to be famous but he is fat and lazy and average. But Dewey is one of my top 10 favs along with Homer's Odessy and Huck. I love these books cuz i hav 2 cats, a poodle and a golden retreiver-white german shepherd mix. Luv them and luv these books!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Dewey by Vicki Myron was about a kitten named Dewey. Dewey got a second chance at life after being stuffed into a book return slot at Spencer Public Library in the middle of one of the toughest, coldest winters that they have had (Myron). Dewey fell in love with everyone and anyone who came through the doors of the library. Dewey wanted to be loved and he also wanted to love others. This book was sad at times, but Dewey had a great life and was loved. This was a great story about second chances and giving and receiving love. Dewey was amazing and deserves five stars. It was tough to read only two parts because they were sad and you could visualize what was happening to Dewey and how scared he must have been. There were no complaints about Dewey, and will be highly recommended to anyone willing to read it. People should definitely read this book if they are cat lovers, enjoy stories about love or second chances, or just want an uplifting story for the soul. This book was powerful and made me happy because of his fun characteristics, playfulness, and how he loved everyone even though he went through hardships and almost death at the beginning of his life. The book contained ethos and pathos literary elements. Ethos, narrator is mentioned throughout the book, in many ways. Vicki Myron was the narrator and writer of Dewey and describes Dewey many times through the first person. Pathos, which is emotion that interests the audience, is included because of Dewey's sweet attitude and loving personality. "He wanted to personally thank every person he ever met for saving his life" (13). Dewey was a 'one of a kind' cat. He had a second chance and all he wanted to do was thank everyone and loved everyone he met; as if he wanted to thank everyone for his life. This was an overall sweet, loving, heart touching, moving book.
thecatsmeowCC More than 1 year ago
I first picked up this book because I love cats & was immedaitely drawn to the cover. I ended up buying the book after reading the back cover & I was hooked. This story made me laugh and cry. It is truly an inspiration. The way that animals can help us in our everyday lives is expressed remarkably throught this book. I LOVED IT!
sbJerseygirl More than 1 year ago
A great afternoon read, especially if you love animals. If you have a pet, you can relate how each pet has its own little personality. Dewey definitely has personality! How he intertwined his life with the author's life is heartwarming. She gets across much of the ups and downs life hands each of us. Pets, even Dewey, can't fix everything, of course, but they sure can put a sparkle in when needed. A great job being library ambassador...(that he actually takes seriously) and bringing people together in the process.
emmyAG More than 1 year ago
If you love cats you will love this book and if you don't love cats you will by the time you have finished this book. It's about an 8 week old kitten that was put the book deposit box at the towns libery in Spencer, Iowa, America. When the next morning the director of the libery found him and decided to keep him. The little orange tabby had frost bitten paws and was freezing cold, but after a warm bath and a visit to the vets, he was fine. This book tells of Vicki's illness's and it gives you an idea of how the town lives and how every one pulls together when times get tough. It tells of Deweys' antics, how he was a loving out going cat that loved every one and every one loved him, he became world famous due to news papers, magazines and documentories. Vicky and her fellow liberians decided to do a competition to find a name for Dewey, but the majority ruled to keep Dewey as his name, so Vicky gave him middle and last name of Readmore Books. So Dewey became Dewey Readmore Books. Every page, for me, was great, every chapter, I could not put this book down and the times I had to put the book down I couldn't wait to pick it back up again. I have never read a book that has made me feel this much emotion, and for the last two chapters, I could hardly read for crying. You get a real sense that you get to know Dewey and you get to love him. I have already recommended this book to every one I know and I have recommended it on facebook aswell.
wheeze More than 1 year ago
I am a cat mom, so I thought there would be nothing better then to read this book. Boy I am glad I did. I rescued my cat from the same situation, so it's touching to hear about the story of Dewey, and Vicki, the person who rescued him. I know other complained about too much about libaries, and the town history, but really, it's a perfect fit. Instead of just hearing about Dewey's crazy antics, you get a sense of where he lived, and who Vicki, as a cat mom was. You laugh with this book, definitely shed some tears, and experience the joy of Dewey. Makes me want to go hug my own kitty!
JudyKleiner More than 1 year ago
I read this book after my mother so highly recommended it. I love cats and have a Dewey of my own. My cat is named Mozart and could be a twin to Dewey. Mozart is the King of this house and while reading Dewey I could identify with the things he did in the library. How fortunate Vicki kept Dewey in the library for everyone to enjoy. I was particularly taken with the story about the little girl from Texas. He had his own special way of taking care of everyone and when he needed care everyone was there for him.This book is very well written and shows the reader also about the history of Spencer, IA. When I read a book and can visualize the story then the author has hit a home run and this is what Vicki and Dewey did. Every moment I could picture Dewey doing this thing, I could picture the town and the hustle and bustle of the library. I can't wait for Vicki's second book to come out in the fall. This is a must read. Thank you Vicki for letting us into the life of Dewey.