Mr. McKee borrowed “A Dog of Flanders” written by English author Marie Louise de la Ramee, when he was 13 years old from the public library in Mount Clemens, MI.
When he sent back the book, he was convinced that he owed the library thousands of dollars in fines. But the library director, Donald Worrell Jr., not only waived the late fee, but also sent Mr. McKee a new copy of the book stating “we figure the story is better than the money”.
This is certainly true – the story went viral after being picked up by the local media, giving the library a nice PR boost.
In case you wonder what captivated young master McKee for so many years, read on.
The story of “A Dog of Flanders” takes place in 19th century Belgium. Orphan Nello went to live with his grandfather in a small village near the city of Antwerp. One day, the boy found a dog (Patrasche) that was almost beaten to death. The two became close friends. Nello helped his grandfather selling milk with Patrasche shackled to a dogcart to get the milk into town each morning. Nello fell in love with Aloise, the daughter of a well-off man in the village. Nello entered a junior drawing contest in Antwerp in order to win first prize (200 francs annually). He lost and then his grandfather passed away. After being accused of arson, Nello went to the cathedral of Antwerp to see Rubens' The Elevation of the Cross, but he could not pay the entrance fee. On the night of Christmas Eve, he and Patrasche found the cathedral open and went in. The next morning, the boy and his dog are found frozen to death in front of the triptych.