Dewey The Library Cat Gets a Movie Deal, Meryl Streep Signs on to Play Librarian
In fact "Dewey: There's a Cat in the Library" is the follow up to Vicki Myron's best-selling memoir "Dewey: The Small-Town Library Cat Who Touched the World," which is set to be made into a movie by New Line Cinema. Meryl Streep has signed on to play Myron, but the former librarian, who discovered Dewey as a kitten abandoned in the Spencer, Iowa library drop box on a chilly winter morning in the 1980s, isn't done telling this feline's tale.
Dewey died in 2006, and his obituary appeared in some 250 American newspapers, including The New York Times. In cat fashion, he's gotten additional lives thanks to Myron. "Dewey: There's a Cat in the Library" was her first children's book and there are several more about the literary kitty expected soon.
Named Dewey by the folks at the library in honor of the Dewey Decimal System for cataloging books in the library, Readmore Books was tacked on to encourage kids to read. Library staff had already been calling him Dewey when a naming contest was held to get more patrons involved -- Dewey won by a landslide.
ParentDish spoke to Myron about how pets help a single mom bond with a teenager and how to find a cat that will be nice to 300 strangers a day.
ParentDish: Was it an obvious jump to do a children's book about Dewey?
Vicki Myron: I think so. We even thought about doing a children's book first because it seemed so obvious. I knew there was a bigger story to tell, so we wanted to do that one first. But we always knew there were children's books in this book. I hope to do a series of them.
PD: You're a librarian, why was it important to do a children's book?
VM: There were many, many adults who adored Dewey during his life. We have visitors still coming from every country. The adult book is sold in 36 countries; we have 10 to 20 tours a day. But it was a natural for a children's book to introduce them to Dewey and to teach them how to treat a cat, how to pet a cat, what animals are like. He has some very funny adventures coming up that are perfect for children's books.
PD: When Dewey first showed up, it seemed he had to adjust to the children more so than them adjusting to him.
VM: It was both ways, actually. He [adjusted] to all of the children around and picking him up and cuddling him. It actually changed not only story hour but our disabled adult visits.
PD: How so?
VM: One thing about Dewey is if you wanted him to stay around and be friendly with you, you had to be quiet and you had to not jump or yell. The kids learned very quickly in story hour -- and this disabled group, too -- if they wanted Dewey to stay in the room and take a lap, that they had to be very quiet and sit still. It totally changed the way we did story hour from then on.
PD: Why was Dewey good at opening up the children?
VM: He was wonderful with anyone at any age who seemed to be alone. I don't know why -- we called it "Dewey's magic" -- but the disabled, the elderly, the homeless, kids, those were his special friends.
PD: Isn't that common with all animals?
VM: He was unusual. I never thought he was just a cat. He was an old soul in a cat's body. He had a sixth sense about who needed him most and what they needed.
VM: Yes, that was 1988, so she would have been 16 when he came into our life.
PD: What's it like adding a cat into a teenager's life?
VM: It was an amazing adventure. She was entering those hard teen years where they talk to their friends, but not their mom. They don't stay home, they don't talk to their other relatives. Dewey was wonderful at not just giving us both love but being funny so we had something in common to talk about. And he absolutely worshiped her. He loved me most of all, but with Jodi it was a pure love because she never had to take him to the vet or give him medication or any of the bad things I had to do. So his love for her was totally pure, and he would sit outside when she was taking a shower and cry. And he would race her to bed; he'd sleep on her pillow.
PD: Why is it so important for kids to have pets or animals in their lives?
VM: I think it's very important to teach empathy. I found that out with the kids at the library. It also changes their behavior when they have to care for another creature. Even the kids that were allergic to cats, I found that their parents would let them see Dewey or pet Dewey just for a minute because they missed that connection with another living being that is so close and so special.
PD: Do you think you would have been able to add a library cat now, if it hadn't been the '80s?
VM: I think it is different now, but I still think libraries can do it if they pick the right cat. They must have the community behind them. A lot of libraries have tried to follow us. They go to a shelter and pick a cat. That's not the right thing to do; it takes a very special animal to handle 300 strangers a day to not bite, to not tip anything over, to not be frightened. He was the perfect animal at the perfect time.
PD: What should other libraries or parents for that matter look for in a cat to find a Dewey?
VM: It's very important, number one, to get a kitten that they grow up used to being around strangers all day long. It's very important to get an animal that's mellow, not too hyper, not scared at all. It's also very important to get a cute animal -- I've seen libraries that have tried just picking a hairless cat. It only lasted two weeks because people cannot be frightened of the animal.
PD: What are some Dewey tips for introducing the cat to the kids?
VM: I think it's very important that they purr immediately, and they purr no matter who picks them up. Then you know you have a friendly cat who enjoys being held and doesn't mind how it's held -- like upside down sometimes. Dewey never tipped over a book in 19 years; he was just a very special animal, and that's what it takes.
Related: Author Interview: "The Kids Are All Right"
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Start by teaching him that it is safe to do so.