Old Possum's Book of Practical Cats

T S Eliot died on the 4th January 1965. After being cremated, his ashes were taken to St Michael and All Angels' Church in East Coker. This is a little village in Somerset from which his ancestors has emigrated to America.

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Famous for his poetry (my favourite is 'The Love Song of J Alfred Prufrock), Eliot's best known work is probably his collection of whimsical poems, 'Old Possum's Book of Practical Cats'. Many people know these from the musical, 'Cats', the musical composed by Andrew Lloyd Webber. Given the requirements of the English programmes of study for KS1 and KS2 around learning poems by heart and reciting some 'with appropriate intonation to make the meaning clear', these poems are a gift! Not only are they fun, they bounce along in an infectious manner, begging to be joined in with!

First published in 1939, this edition (published in 2009 for the 70th anniversary) is full of Axel Scheffler's fabulous illustrations. All the feline shenanigans of the poems are captured in his pictures and his style is recognisable to many children from his works like 'The Gruffalo', making them appealing and familiar. 

Written in the 30s, the poems offer a wealth of words which are unfamiliar to many today and cry out to be investigated. 'Profound', 'rapt', 'extemporise', 'ineffable', 'bounder', 'spats', 'melliferous horgan'... so many to discover and research (even for adults!). A collection of adjectives (synonyms and antonyms, nouns to adjectives etc)   could be made and used to play a 'Cats' version of the old parlour game, 'The Parson's Cat'.

Old Deuteronomy is an ancient cat, Mongijerrie is a blatant cat, Macavity is a criminal cat, Rumpelteazer is a disreputable cat,  Macavity is a fiendish cat...

There are even opportunities for spelling-  Of the awfull battle of the Pekes and the Pollicles will hopefully raise questions! 

Poetry is such an important way of expressing yourself, enjoying playing with and listening to the musical qualities of language and words. I think learning poetry can do no harm and this is a great place to start!

Old Possum's Book of Practical Cats by T S Eliot, illustrated by Axel Scheffler

Faber and Faber     ISBN: 978-0571240616


You can read our review of Jellicle Cats, illustrated by Arthur Robins here  and Macavity, illustrated by Arthur Robins here. There are other poems from Old Possum in this series. 


 A 'Cats' book list is available on the Members' Section of the website.