I was rather nervous approaching this book. Teenage memories of high school English class traumas live long. I remember being forced to study the poems of TS Eliot when I didn't want to, no specifics are still with me, but I remember working out that toilets is an anagram of TS Eliot such was my horror.
I didn't realise until now that Old Possum's Book of Practical Cats was the inspiration for the musical Cats (which I've never seen). It would be interesting to see how these many separate poems about individual cats comes together as one story.
Old Possum's Book Of Practical Cats is 15 separate poems about individual cats and their peccadilloes and practices. Whilst told in verse it's not the rhyming, rolling metre of Dr Seuss, at times it does approach that. My favourites were about Rum Tum Tugger and Macavity.
The Rum Tum Tugger is a terrible bore:
When you let him in, then he wants to be out;
He's always on the wrong side of every door,
The Rum Tum Tugger is artful and knowing,
The Rum Tum Tugger doesn't care for a cuddle;
But he'll leap on your lap in the middle of your sewing,
For there's nothing he enjoys like a horrible muddle.
Haven't we all known a cat like that? I have. And artful old Macavity....
Macavity, Macavity, there's no one like Macavity,
There never was a Cat of such deceiftulness and suavity.
He always has an alibi, and one or two to spare:
At whatever time the deed took place- MACAVITY WASN'T THERE
The first poem on the naming of cats is rather a delight, I learnt that cats must have three different names. And T.S Eliot takes a turn at showing us the difference between cats and dogs in The Ad-Dressing of Cats.
The poems were originally written by Eliot in the 1930s in letters to his godchildren before being published in 1939. I enjoyed a modern edition published for the 70th anniversary of the book, illustrated by Axel Scheffler, who found fame with his work with Julia Donaldson's The Gruffalo.