in the world of books there's no doubt who's the cat's meow readers came from around the world to see him in life and now his famous outlived him he's the subject of a new bestseller Martha teichner takes us on a book lovers journey to the nation's heartland there are a couple of things Spencer Iowa tends to be known for number one the Clay County Fair 300,000 people attended every year number 2 Dewey the cat so it only seemed fitting that the first books arrived in time for the fair and that Vicki Myron the author and by her own description Dewey's mom was there signing away would it surprise you to learn that the publisher paid a 1 and a quarter million dollar advance for the life story of a cat now dead who lived in a small town library and there's talk of a movie hi Dewey you would be correct in assuming that Dewey lived no ordinary life this is the outside of the book drop and as you can see it's high enough off the ground that Dewey did have to be stuffed in there it was 12 below zero Spencer the morning of January 18 1988 when library director Vicki Myron was informed there was something alive in the book drop he was freezing cold in his hoarse from crying all night long and then what kind of condition was he he was very thin his feet were frostbitten we warmed him up and he started purring and I decided to keep him she called him Dewey after Melville Dewey the man who invented the Dewey Decimal System but then held a named the cat contest there were 397 entries and a lot of them were more than once you can see that there's a lot of sleepies and sneezies and snuggles and snowball fleabag I know there were there were some who are not so kind but also fifty people requested that we keep the name Dewey so that's what we did he became we read more books for the next 19 years the subject of much videotaping do we charmed almost everybody who came to the library from the moment Vicky Myron arrived at 7:30 every morning so by the time I got here he was seriously waving right waving I'd be looking for a book in Dewey would appear and pretty soon a paw would come down in Tampa Balkans okay Dewey I'd take that book library regular peg bear screamed the first time it happened if he was in the mood he'd come over for a pet her too and no and then he might jump in my lap pegs husband Mike Dewey loved boxes so he might be sleeping in this box with his tail hanging out the side Marilee and you come walking in the front door and you see that and you just you know it's a it's an upper one two three low there was a woman who complained that if the library had a cat she could bring her cow in on a leash she never did it turns out dewey wasn't the only library cat this is when he joined the library cat society and that's his actual membership card there yes there is actually a library cat Society with a hundred twenty five members but who unlike dewey were not the objects of a publishers bidding war the price kept going higher and higher but i thought we are gonna get through it Jamie Rabb executive vice president of Grand Central publishing admits she cried when she read the manuscript the cat is star of the story but it's really a story about community it's a story about being lost and being found it's about America at its best I think along four and a half hours southwest of minneapolis by car Spencer Iowa is surrounded by rich beautiful farmland
it passed for the big city until 1931 when an accidental fireworks explosion destroyed just about the entire downtown our downtown is the legacy of the fire of 1931 but it is also the legacy of the farm crisis of the 80s and that's where do we came in there's a lot of pride in Iowa an especially small town Iowa farmers that was a very hard time for the men especially the year before Dewey arrived 63,000 people visited the Spencer library the year after 100,000 Dewey was kind of that bridge that common touch so it was a an element that we could talk about instead of talking about there being jobless or not being able to pay the rent or having to sell the family farm there he had this amazing quality of knowing who needed him and when especially Vicki Myron herself she had left her alcoholic husband and was raising her daughter alone she was running the library working on a master's degree and had serious health problems do we saw her through it all the most unbelievable bond I've ever had knowing with a pet but even with a human ever today is a special birthday for one Spencer resident another hard day of work for Dewey read more books as time went on through word-of-mouth and various news stories Dewey got famous one of the international cat magazines picked it up and that started his fame in Britain to where he had his first British pen pal by the by 1992 and this is what happened when Pegg and Mike bear went to New Zealand for a cruise and we were in the middle of the South Pacific and we were trying to explain to people our fellow passengers where in Iowa we were from and they said is that where do we the library cat is and bingo yep sure enough he was featured in a commentary' about library cats doing one of his favorite things riding the book cart do he Deedle a book a camera crew came all the way from japan to film Dewey Vicky now could him alone yet not pelvis do we died November 29th 2006 he was 19 his obituary appeared in more than 270 newspapers the library got thousands of cards and emails but it didn't stop there we counted and he was on eighty nine thousand four hundred websites it just seems like um it never stops with Dewey it never stops I keep telling people do his magic is still working with his story on sale in 17 countries and rapidly climbing the bestseller lists that would be an understatement
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In 1988, a cat was found frozen & miserable in a library drop-box. Over the next 20 years, Dewey was adopted by the library & the community of Spencer, Iowa. Check your local listings to see when CBS SUNDAY MORNING airs in your area.