cover image The Efficient, Inventive (Often Annoying) Melvil Dewey

The Efficient, Inventive (Often Annoying) Melvil Dewey

Alexis O’Neill, illus. by Edwin Fotheringham. Calkins Creek, $18.99 (40p) ISBN 978-1-68437-198-3

O’Neill’s breezy biography caroms through Melvil Dewey’s quirks of efficiency—simplifying the spelling of his name, lecturing at “180 words per minute”—and achievements—advocating for public libraries, establishing the Dewey Decimal System, founding a school for librarians at Columbia, and educating women against the trustees’ will, among other things. But the presentation of the efficiency-minded Dewey as an “appealing or annoying” person buries key information: an author’s note reveals that his racism, anti-Semitism, and harassment of women were significant enough to impact his career in the early 1900s, and relegating this to a footnote sours the charm of O’Neill’s narration. Fotheringham’s crisp pictures, however, capture Dewey’s whirlwind energy, showing him on the move and transformed into a speeding train. Back matter includes a timeline, a breakdown of the Dewey Decimal System, and information on the figure’s other reforms. Ages 7–10. (Nov.)