Posted by: billpurdue | October 21, 2010

Mainly about cats

Talk to any of my friends and they will tell you that I’m a dog lover, but I’m not as enthusiastic when it comes to cats. In spite of all that I’ve just read and enjoyed a book about a very special cat which lived in a public library. You may already have guessed which one – Dewey. Dewey, the small town library cat that touched the world by Vicki Myron with Bret Witter [Hodder £6.99 978-0340953952] tells the story of a cat that was dumped in the returned library book box (“the night drop box”) one very cold winter’s night in the library at Spencer, Iowa. Dewey was just a kitten, but survived the ordeal and quickly captured the hearts of the library staff and just about all the library customers with his winning ways.

Dewey didn’t perform any super-feline feats, like travelling thousands of miles on his own, but simply made the library a much more pleasant place to be just at the time when Spencer was going through a crisis affecting the surrounding farms and indirectly the whole of the local population. He also brought comfort to Vicki, who was in charge of the library, and whom life had not treated well. She had survived the loss of the family farm and an abusive husband.

Gradually Dewey’s fame spread and eventually people were travelling hundreds of miles just to see Dewey. TV crews, including one from Japan, tried to capture his antics on video, with variable success.

Though I’m not a cat lover, I did enjoy the book, in spite of its very American style. I think it would appeal to most animal lovers: the ending, inevitably, is rather sad, but Dewey’s memory lives on.

No doubt building on the success of the book, Vicki Myron with Brett Witter have now compiled a volume of stories of amazing cats from around the world published in the UK at the end of last month. Entitled  Dewey’s Nine Lives: The Legacy of the Small-town Library Cat Who Inspired Millions [Simon and Schuster £14.99 978-1847378569] it contains more stories about Dewey’s antics, not included in the original book, as well as a variety of other cats that have touched the lives of us humans.

Yet another cat that has stolen the hearts of many around the world is Caspar, the cat who liked to ride on the buses. In Casper the commuting Cat [Simon and Schuster, £12.99 978-0857200082] Susan Finden and Linda Watson-Brown tell the story of the cat that disappeared every day for hours on end. It turned out that Caspar was taking a ride on the No 3 bus around his home town of Plymouth and, in the process delighting the bus passengers and bus company staff. He eventually became the bus company mascot and a picture of him and Susan, his owner, appeared on the side of the buses on the No 3 route.

Naturally his fame soon spread further than Plymouth. Like Dewey, Casper had touched the the hearts of millions around the world and when Caspar was killed by a car earlier this year, messages of sympathy came from far and wide. You can see a short video of Casper on the BBC News website

Out this month

Staying with the animal theme, I just wanted to mention The Natural History Book [Dorling Kindersley £30 9781405336994] I’ve not seen the actual book myself, but from the look of it on the DK website, it’s a worldwide survey of the Earth’s natural history, produced in the superb DK style almost overflowing with photographs. (I almost used the word “stunning”, but it’s not a word I like).  You should be able to get hold of a copy for quite a bit less than the published price.


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