The illustrated Old Possum = Old Possum's book of practical cats

by T. S. Eliot

Paper Book, 1974






London : Faber, 1974.


These playful verses by a celebrated poet have delighted readers and cat lovers around the world ever since they were gathered for publication in 1939. As Valerie Eliot has pointed out, there are a number of references to cats in T.S. Eliot's work, but it was to his godchildren, particularly Tom Faber and Alison Tandy, in the 1930s, that he first revealed himself as "Old Possum" and for whom he composed his poems.

User reviews

LibraryThing member Smiler69
What's there not to like? It's poetry about cats with names such as Rumpleteazer, Deutoronomy and Skimbleshanks, with wonderful illustrations by Edward Gorey. I was enjoying it enough, but then started reading aloud to my little menagerie and our combined enjoyment was tenfold. Now I'm wondering if I should rename my own cats. 'Mimi' and 'Ezra' just seem so ordinary and are missing a few syllables besides... But how could I forget? Mr. Eliot has already provided the answer:

"The Naming of Cats is a difficult matter,
It isn't just one of your holiday games;
You may think at first I'm as mad as a hatter
When I tell you, a cat must have THREE DIFFERENT NAMES."
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LibraryThing member Inkwell_Summer07
I enjoyed this book an awful lot. It's quite a different side of Eliot than one is used to and I must say I liked this side very much. I even read it to my eight year old brother and he loved it too. The Broadway hit Cats! stole its inspiration from this book I believe, but any similarities end there. I personally disliked the Broadway show. This book does not try to offer any deep cat philosophy. It's just pure fun.

And pure T. S. Eliot, of course.
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LibraryThing member bohemima
The expressive, creative use of language overcomes the slightly tedious thump-thump rhythms of these poems by an author who clearly knows and loves cats. A pleasant surprise from an author usually considered formidable.
LibraryThing member MeditationesMartini
Prominent modernist decided to get cuddly and prove that he's a good sort after all and can enjoy a good feed and a plum pudding, what, and appreciate an furry old rum tum tugger and a chumbly wumbly in his jumbly bumbly dumbly. And cats everywhere pay the price.
LibraryThing member DanielSTJ
This was a great collection of poetry by T.S Eliot. Childlike, lithe, and free- these all encompass the various cats, in their meticulous poses, that are scattered and meowing throughout the book in their nuances of character. I really enjoyed this and thought Eliot did a great job with his subject matter to make it accessible to more than simply children- though I do believe it was intended for that audience.

A riveting read. 4 stars!
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LibraryThing member kdebros
Wonderful rhymes, very imaginative and fun to read. Also fun to imagine the cats described.
LibraryThing member LA12Hernandez
Yes, I did buy this because of the play Cats. And it is a fun read.
LibraryThing member LeHack
The basis for the broadway show "Cats". Being a cat lover, I recognized some of my own felines in the poems. Humor, but at times sad. Cats definitely have personalities of their own.
LibraryThing member ironicqueery
I'm not quite sure why someone with the statue of T.S. Eliot would write this quaint little book of verse, but he did. I think it would appeal to cat-enthusiasts only; it's too much cute and too little of verse that provokes serious thought. The illustrations by Edward Gorey also seemed a step down from his usual work.
LibraryThing member messpots
If someone wrote a book of road directions in verse, it would be valuable as road directions even if the verse were indifferent. The verse in this book is indifferent, but there are cat observations to redeem it. If cat observations bore you, then this book will make you miserable. It certainly made me miserable.
LibraryThing member lauraejensen
Intricate drawings by Edward Gorey enhance the simple silly poems that are more fun read aloud then not. Highlights are "Gus the theater cat" and "The Pekes and Pollicles." Would be great as a unit on poetry, illustrations, or as a comparison to the musical, would be fun to use as skits, read aloud.
LibraryThing member punxsygal
Old Possums's Book of Practical Cats, T.S. Eliot. 4 stars. Years ago I saw the musical "Cats", but did not know it was based upon some of the poems from this book. At the time I did not appreciate it very much. However, I picked this book up for our reading challenge and began. The first poem, The Naming of Cats, was quite good and I kept reading, but really felt things were a little flat. Then I got to Of the Awful Battle of the Pekes and the Pollicles--being a dog lover it gave me a chuckle. But somewhere in the middle of the book, I decided to read a poem out loud to myself and that is when the magic took over. The reading out loud seem to bring out the music of the poems. Apparently, poems just aren't to be read like novels.… (more)
LibraryThing member drbubbles
Strangely enough, I thought it read like a Dr. Seuss book.
LibraryThing member 391
I love the illustrations! They are perfect and adorable!
LibraryThing member jadepumpsthejams
Cute, old-timey cats. Black and white illustrations which are a lovely and unobtrusive backdrop to this wonderful book. Some poems in the book are dated, with racial stereotyping.
LibraryThing member leslie.98
I have always been a bit afraid of T.S. Eliot, thinking of him as a serious and somewhat gloomy poet. What a surprise this cheerful and light book of poems was!! And Edward Gorey's illustrations were equally wonderful.
LibraryThing member tloeffler
Andrew Lloyd Webber probably should not have gotten all the credit he did for the musical "Cats." Eliot's book of poems about cats has almost all the words. All he added was music.
This is a delightful book on its own, without the music (although if you're familiar with the music, I dare you to read it without singing it). I'm not particularly a "cat person" but I recognized many cats that I've come across in my time. I can't wait to read it to my granddaughter!… (more)
LibraryThing member adpaton
Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats is surely due for a revival: a generation that knows all the songs to Cats but has no idea where the lyrics came from is ripe to be introduced to this charming work by the inimitable TS Eliot.

The original had a rather unappealing cover design by the author himself while the renowned TS Bentley provided the interior illustrations: this 70th anniversary edition contains appealing pictures by Axel Scheffler, who has become a legend in the field of children’s books.

Most people have had a Macavity [he’s not there!] or a sleepy old Deuteronomy in their lives – this new edition of poems is a wonderful way to remember them.
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LibraryThing member burnleyoldgit
Although clearly written for children, these are master pieces... for a change, you don't need a host of footnotes etc to be able to understand them.
LibraryThing member thornton37814
Delightful book of poetry about cats from T. S. Eliot with illustrations by Edward Gorey. A true classic! You are certain to see most cats you know somewhere among the ones in the small volume.
LibraryThing member debnance
Unexpectedly simple. Quietly true. And it's all poems. By T. S. Eliot, no less. And all about cats.
LibraryThing member SebastianHagelstein
I was surprised that the poems are very similar to the songs in the musical Cats. The poems are funny and the illustrations are good and match the poems.
LibraryThing member mjiko
Block out any uncomfortable images of an overrated and overpriced Broadway musical, and revel in Eliot's sublime portraits of practical cats...
LibraryThing member Shirezu
When looking through lists of poetry books trying to decide which to read for my book challenge I knew I couldn't pass this one. Cats the Musical, and this book, are my wifes' favourite and she named my cat after Mr Mistoffelees.

It was an amusing little book with fun, kitty stories though was a touch racist in parts. After reading certain poems I watched YouTube clips of the Cats version and found they never quite fit what I had in my head. The tempo of the poems in the book is quite fast which obviously wouldn't always work in a musical.

I will now sit down with my wife and watch the whole musical to see how it all connects. A quick, entertaining read.
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LibraryThing member Voracious_Reader
How could one fail to love a book about cats (sort of) that uses the word terpsichorean? As an aside, one of our cats is having a kitty dream and is snorting and twitching beside me. Anything that mentions derivation from the Greek muse of dance and song or prestidigitation and leger domain is cool in my book. It's a very sweet book, and, while I'm aware that many well-educated linguists would not call it good poetry, I can't help but like it. The best illustrations accompany Growltiger's Last Stand, Rum Tum Tiger and Macavity. While reading the book one of our cat sat beside me alternating through dreaming, chewing on my pencil, sitting on my book, and making look at me noises, while flicking me with her tail. So needy. T.S. Eliot perfectly captures the eidos of the Cat.… (more)


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