A note about The Cuddlywumps Chronicles

This blog is written and maintained by Miss Cuddlywumps, a fluffy-tailed calico cat who is both classically educated and familiar with mysteries. She receives creative input from the Real Cats and clerical assistance from She of Little Talent (old SoLT, a.k.a. Roby Sweet). Comments or complaints should be addressed to Miss C rather than to old SoLt (Ms. Sweet). Ms. Sweet accepts no responsibility for Miss C's opinions.

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Book Review: The True Tails of Baker and Taylor

You know what the world needs more of? Library cats. This is what we have concluded after reading the delightful book called The True Tails of Baker and Taylor, by Jan Louch, with Lisa Rogak. More library cats would make dramatic improvements in the world. Don’t believe me? Read on.

The story

On July 22, 1982, a new branch of the Douglas County Library opened in Minden, Nevada, and soon after, the staff discovered there were numerous mice outside it. Naturally, they decided they needed a cat to, you know, protect the books. And while they were at it, they thought they’d better get two cats to, you know, keep each other company. This was a totally, 100% professional decision based solely on a desire to safeguard the library’s assets. A desire to have cats at work had absolutely nothing to do with it. (Ahem.)

Of course, cats need names, and what better names for library cats than Baker and Taylor, after major library wholesaler Baker & Taylor?

Baker sleeping on duty, and on a
box of voter registration forms.
Photo courtesy of Jan Louch.
Soon enough, two Scottish fold cats took up residence in the Minden Library. Baker (pictured at right) arrived first and proved to be the social butterfly of the pair. He liked to hang out where he could greet the public. Taylor (pictured below) was more reserved, preferring to nap at Louch’s desk. Louch describes the cats as a sort of feline odd couple, with Taylor playing the neat freak and Baker “the good-natured, hedonistic slob.”

Even in that age before social media (back when people used to talk to each other), it wasn’t long before patrons started walking into the library and asking for the cats. Thus began their popularity, which really took off after Baker & Taylor the company began using Baker and Taylor the cats in their marketing campaigns. Louch takes us behind the scenes of photo shoots with the cats, and we learn—surprise, surprise—that they hated these sessions of being posed repeatedly and exposed to flashing bright lights.

But without those photos, which were reproduced on posters and shopping bags, the cats’ popularity might not have exploded at library trade shows, where librarians were soon flocking to the Baker & Taylor booth to pick up their own poster or bag or what have you. The posters went up in libraries all over the country, news stories were written, and almost before the Minden Library staff knew what was going on, their cats were famous and had their own fan club (made up of second graders who sharpened their writing skills by sending cards to the cats; and yes, the cats answered, with Louch’s help).

Changes, changes

But as it turns out, Baker and Taylor’s story isn’t just about a couple of cats. It’s also about the many people whose lives they touched, it’s about Jan Louch, and it’s about the area of Nevada where they lived.

Taylor enjoyed sitting in a "Buddha pose."
Photo courtesy of 
Jan Louch.
See, sometimes you’re changing and you don’t even realize it—as in Louch’s transformation into something of a sourpuss after her divorce and then  her reemergence as she softened and learned to laugh again with the help of a certain pair of cats. Other times you know things are changing—as in the Carson Valley’s period of rapid growth, when quite a few Californians transplanted themselves to what had been a pretty sleepy place. The library staff saw change firsthand (literally) as new technology crept in and they had to type information from the card catalog into the new computer system.

Cats hate change, and we’ve found that most people are really not that crazy about it either. But if a person has a nice soft kitty to pet when things get rough… What’s more healing than that?

The verdict

I could write and write and write about all the little things we enjoyed about this book. The True Tails of Baker and Taylor is a page-turner not because it’s suspenseful but because it’s just such a pleasure to read. Of course we enjoyed reading about the cats and their quirky habits, but it was also fun (and enlightening) to get a peek into the life of a librarian. She of Little Talent enjoyed the book for its time period, when a much younger old SoLT loved her local county library and spent a fair amount of time haunting its stacks and searching through the card catalog. The only problem with that library was, it did not have a cat.

You know how sometimes when you finish a book, you hold it for a while and flip back through the pages because you really don’t want it to be over? This is one of those books. We feel like we know Baker and Taylor, and Jan Louch and Minden, Nevada. We wish more libraries had cats, because cats and books just belong together, don’t they? The True Tails of Baker and Taylor is also a reminder that cats can do some pretty amazing things, like make a library a more welcoming, happier, homier place; soften a wounded person so she can laugh again; help children learn to read and write; inspire people to travel to a library just to see them; and cause librarians to descend en masse onto a trade show booth to grab some cat-themed tchotchke.

This is the point in our reviews where we usually point out some flaw, large or small, that could be improved in a book. But the only problem we can think of is that reading about Baker and Taylor made us long for a library with a cat. Because wouldn’t it be just perfect to be browsing through the stacks and come across a cat waiting to be petted?

That would make the world a better place.

Very highly recommended! And don't miss the video [below] of members of the Baker and Taylor Fan Club singing their song about the cats!

A note on the "Paws Up" system: Miss C gives either one or two paws up. One paw is for a good read; two paws is for a great read. She never gives three or four paws because that would require her to lie on her back...and Miss C does not do that!

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