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Get your copy, I'll wait for you

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By Calen McKinney

I was like a child in a candy store. Except this candy store was full of stories, not chocolate.

Last weekend, I went with a friend to the Southern Kentucky Book Festival in Bowling Green. My attendance at this festival is an annual trip I look forward to for months.

Hundreds of authors gather at the fair to talk with their readers, sign autographs and have panel discussions about their books and writing.

My favorite part is the discussions. It's so interesting to find out why a writer picked a character's name or what they hoped readers would learn from their story. I also enjoy meeting the authors and asking them questions.

I was excited for this year's fair to meet and talk with three authors especially, Campbellsville native Janna McMahan, William Van Meter and Brett Witter.

McMahan has written "Calling Home" and "The Ocean Inside," both of which are good stories that make you think.

Van Meter is the author of "Bluegrass: A True Story of Murder in Kentucky," the true crime book about murdered Western Kentucky University student Katie Autry that I discussed in this space a few weeks ago.

I heard Van Meter discuss how he did his research for the book and the reaction he has received about it since its release. It's interesting to hear who cooperated with him and who didn't.

Witter is the co-author of the heart-warming book "Dewey: The Small-Town Library Cat Who Touched The World."

If you haven't read this book, and you are an animal lover, go get a copy right now. I will wait.

The book tells the touching true story of how Dewey was dropped in the book return at a small library in Iowa. It was freezing outside, and he suffered frostbite on his paws.

Dewey was rescued and became the library's pet, mascot and eventually the glue that kept the town together.

The book details Dewey's life at the library, from hiding in the books to surprise people, "selecting" the lucky person who would get to hold him and making even the shyest of people smile.

As a cat lover, I can relate to Dewey's story. Sometimes cats choose you, and I think Dewey definitely chose to live at this library.

I have written before about my cats, but I like to think they chose me, even though I adopted both of them before we ever met.

When Jake looks at me with his big golden eyes and sweet face, or jumps in my lap and refuses to leave until I pet him, I melt. When Julie looks at me and sounds her signature meow, or curls up on my pillow at night, I melt.

I forget that I am supposed to be mad that they just chewed on one of my students' test papers - again. Or I forget that I have had to wash my comforter - for the fourth time recently - because someone couldn't keep their dinner down.

I can identify with the love the people of Spencer, Iowa had for Dewey, and I feel the same way about my cats.

Dewey became a fixture at the Spencer Public Library and gave the town hope again. How could a cat give a town hope, you ask? Well, Dewey made people happy, which made them be nicer to each other and, in turn, everyone started caring about everyone again. All because of a cat.

The library got national attention. Dewey became a celebrity. And (spoiler alert) when Dewey died, his obituary appeared in The New York Times. Now that's truly a special cat.

I have enjoyed reading this book and really don't want to finish it. I know the sad part is coming, the part (spoiler alert again) where Vicki, Dewey's "mom," has to decide to put him to sleep. I can't put into words how difficult that decision is to make. I have had to make it, and probably won't ever get over that.

I'll end this column with a quote from the book, hopefully one that will make you want to read more. This is from Vicki's point of view.

"The most important thing is having someone there to scoop you up, to hold you tight, and to tell you everything is all right. For years, I thought I had done that for Dewey. I thought that was my story to tell. And I had done that.

"But that's only a sliver of the truth. The real truth is that for all those years, on the hard days, the good days, and all the unremembered days that make up the pages of the real book of our lives, Dewey was holding me."