Wednesday, May 14, 2008

'Old Possum's Book of Practical Cats'

by T.S. Eliot

Poetry, first published in 1939.
This edition, with drawings by Edward Gorey, published in 1982.
Faber and Faber, hardback, 58 p.
T. S. Eliot's collection of cat poems, written originally to amuse his godchildren and friends, has become one of the all-time favourites of children's literature. Suitable for all ages, the poems continue to delight and were the inspiration for Andrew Lloyd Webber's brilliant musical Cats. For this edition, cult American artist Edward Gorey applies his distinctively charming and mischievous touch to illustrations for this wise and witty collection.
What fun! After my failure to get through Ariel by Sylvia Plath, I’m glad I could find some poetry to enjoy. Sure these are technically classified as children’s poems but they were simply a joy to read and the illustrations by Edward Gorey were a perfect combination. And now that I've read these, maybe I’ll even try some of his more serious poetry one of these days.

We did see the musical Cats when we visited Edinburgh a few years ago and I do so wish now that I’d read all the poems before seeing it. The only one I’d read before was The Naming of Cats, from which our Sir Bailey gets his name. Of them all, I do think the poem of the clever, mysterious Macavity is my favourite but they all made me smile. The story of the real cat that has been nicknamed Macavity, after the poem, is also quite cute. (Read the article here). You can read all the poems online here, but without the drawings of course. Recommended for all cat lovers and perhaps even for those who ... shh…prefer dogs.

My Rating: 4/5
(#18 for 2008, What's in a Name Challenge - Animal #3)


  1. What a great combination! Eliot is my favorite poet (though I don't know much about poetry) and Gorey is one of my favorite illustrators.

  2. Ohh, Cats in Edinburgh! That must have been great!

    Can you believe that I only found out that the musical was based on this book after having read it?

    It's a very fun book, and I'm glad that you enjoyed it. For more fun poetry, I recommend Roald Dahl's Revolving Rhymes - a collection of poems that completely turn traditional fairy tales around in hilarious ways.

  3. I've seen Cats a couple of times and love all the music. Isn't there one song about naming the cats?

    We gave our oldest daughter a copy of Old Possum's Book of Practical Cats after we took her to see the musical. She love both.

  4. Teresa- I love illustrations anyway but these really were a great combination.

    Nymeth- It was fun. Cats had already finished it's long run in London not too long before we moved there and they were doing a tour around the UK. We were thinking of a trip to Edinburgh anyway so luckily I managed to match up the dates and get us tickets.

    And can you believe I didn't know the musical was based on this book until after I'd seen it? :P

    I saw the link to Roald Dahl's poems in your sidebar and I read the Goldilocks one. Hahaha! I'll definitely have to read more of them. Too fun!

    Les- I have to admit I don't remember the music very well although there most likely was a song about the naming of cats. I'd love to see the musical again someday especially now that I've read the poems.

  5. I used to have a copy of this book, but I thought it was just a bit too silly. The illustrations are wonderful. I was probably going through one of my de-cluttering phases when I got rid of it.

  6. Hey now. Dog lover here! Actually, I miss having a cat in the house, but my husband is allergic. It was him or my kitty. Sometimes I wonder if I made the right decision!! Oh well...bygones!!

    Actually this sounds like a lot of fun!

  7. Nancy- It is pretty silly but sometimes silly is fun! :)

    Stephanie- LOL! Having both (husband and cats) sometimes I feel like it's just me, the mom, and 3 little boys! :P

  8. Thank you for the link to Macavity's story, what a smart cat!

    On my way to check out Old Possum's book of Practical cats - I love Eliot, haven't read this one yet.

  9. This sounds like a must read for cat loving readers. :-)

    I haven't had a chance to see Cats, the musical, but maybe someday. I do love musicals.

  10. A Reader from India- It's a cute story isn't it? I borrowed this from the library but I may have to get a copy for myself.

    Literary Feline- I love musicals too. I got to see quite a few when we lived in England which was great.

  11. That is one of many books I love simply because of Edward Gorey's amazing illustrations. He has been a favorite since I first discovered his work as a youth and seeing it always brings back feelings of nostalgia.

  12. Carl- The illustrations were really great. I borrowed it from the library but I think I'll have to get a copy of this for myself.


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