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Old Possum's Book of Practical Cats [Hardcover]

T.S. Eliot , Axel Scheffler
4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (114 customer reviews)
RRP: 14.99
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Book Description

5 Sep 2013

Cats! Some are sane, some are mad and some are good and some are bad.

Meet magical Mr Mistoffelees, sleepy Old Deuteronomy and curious Rum Tum Tugger. But you'll be lucky to meet Macavity because Macavity's not there!

In 1925 T.S. Eliot became co-director of Faber & Faber, who remain his publishers to this day. Throughout the 1930s he composed the now famous poems about Macavity, Old Deuteronomy, Mr Mistoffelees and many other cats, under the name of 'Old Possum'. In 1981 Eliot's poems were set to music by Andrew Lloyd Webber as Cats which went on to become the longest-running Broadway musical in history.

This charming new edition contains original colour illustrations by the award-winning illustrator of The Gruffalo, Axel Scheffler.

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 72 pages
  • Publisher: Faber & Faber (5 Sep 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0571302289
  • ISBN-13: 978-0571302284
  • Product Dimensions: 22.8 x 18.6 x 1.4 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (114 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 58,165 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Thomas Stearns Eliot was born in St Louis, Missouri in 1888. He was educated at Harvard, at the Sorbonne in Paris, and at Merton College, Oxford. His early poetry was profoundly influenced by the French symbolists, especially Baudelaire and Laforgue. In his academic studies he specialised in philosophy and logic. His doctoral thesis was on F. H. Bradley.

He settled in England in 1915, the year in which he married Vivienne Haigh-Wood and also met his contemporary Ezra Pound for the first time. After teaching for a year or so he joined Lloyds Bank in the City of London in 1917, the year in which he published his first volume, Prufrock and Other Observations.

In 1919 Poems was hand-printed by Leonard and Virginia Woolf. His first collection of essays, The Sacred Wood, appeared in 1920. His most famous work, The Waste Land, was published in 1922, the same year as James Joyce's Ulysses. The poem was included in the first issue of his journal The Criterion, which he founded and edited.

Three years later he left the bank to become a director of Faber and Gwyer, later Faber and Faber. His Poems 1909-25 was one of the original titles published by Geoffrey Faber's new firm, and the basis of his standard Collected Poems 1909-1962. In 1927 he was received into the Church of England and also became a British citizen. Ash Wednesday was published at Easter 1930.

His masterpiece Four Quartets began with 'Burnt Norton' in 1936, continued with 'East Coker' in 1940, 'The Dry Salvages' in 1941 and 'Little Gidding' in 1942. The separate poems were gathered together as one work in 1943.Eliot's writing for the theatre began with the satirical 'Sweeney Agonistes' fragments.

In 1934 he wrote the London churches' pageant play 'The Rock', the choruses from which are preserved in Collected Poems, and the next year he was commissioned by the Canterbury Festival to write Murder in the Cathedral, about the martyrdom of St Thomas à Beckett. The Family Reunion followed in 1939, when he also published his children's classic, Old Possum's Book of Practical Cats, the jacket drawn by Eliot himself. (The Possum was Eliot's alias among friends). He later wrote three more verse plays, all of which were premièred at the Edinburgh Festival: The Cocktail Party, The Confidential Clerk and The Elder Statesman. A film of Murder in the Cathedral was shown at the Venice Film Festival in 1951.

Eliot's most important literary criticism is collected in Selected Essays 1917-1932, which he enlarged in 1951. There are a number of other volumes of lectures and essays, among them The Use of Poetry and the Use of Criticism, For Lancelot Andrewes, On Poetry and Poets, and two works of social criticism - The Idea of a Christian Society and Notes Towards the Definition of Culture. Eliot was appointed to the Order of Merit in January 1948 and in the Autumn was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature. He married for the second time in 1957, to Valerie Fletcher.

Eliot died in January 1965. There is a memorial to him in Westminster Abbey, beside those to Tennyson and Browning. His ashes are in St Michael's Church, East Coker, the Somerset village from which his ancestor Andrew Eliot emigrated to America in 1667.

After his death his widow edited the long-lost original manuscript of the The Waste Land and a volume of his letters. She also commissioned editions of his early poems Inventions of a March Hare and his Clark and Turnbull lectures The Varieties of Metaphysical Poetry. Old Possum's Book of Practical Cats provided the lyrics for Andrew Lloyd Webber's dance musical Cats, which has been performed all over the world for the past 25 years.

Product Description

Amazon Review

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.
The phenomenal worldwide success in the 1980s of the musical Cats refuelled interest in T.S. Eliot's classic Old Possum's Book of Practical Cats on which the stage extravaganza was based. Old Possum's Book, originally published in 1939 and dedicated to Eliot's godchildren, contains a delightful rogues' gallery of felines, including the Rum Tum Tugger cat whose "disobliging ways are a matter of habit", Mr Mistoffelees "The Original Conjuring Cat" and Macavity: The Mystery Cat "the master criminal who can defy the law". Loved by generations of children and adults alike, Old Possum is perhaps most remarkable for having been written almost as an aside, a plaything, by Eliot, as a distraction from the internal religious and philosophical wranglings he charted in Four Quartets.

A warm and witty collection of free-verse poems, which demand to be read aloud and given full dramatic import, this edition of Old Possum's Book of Practical Cats has been reissued by Faber and Faber Limited in a slim pocket-sized edition, with original tongue-in-cheek illustrations by Nicolas Bentley. --Catherine Taylor --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.


'If cats, witchy or not, are your child's thing don't miss the new Old Possum's Book of Practical Cats. He captures the quirky soleminity of T.S.Eliot's classic in just a way to make 5+ readers fall in love with it.' (Times 2010-12-23)

These classic cat poems which sum up all the different kinds of cats there can be are given a delightful new look by bestselling Gruffalo illustrator Axel Scheffler. Scheffler's cats are cuddly creatures with expressive eyes through which the cats convey the hilarity and nonsense of T S Eliot's verses. (Julia Eccleshare Lovereading.co.uk)

A lovely edition of an old favourite ... it will be enjoyed again and again. (Carousel 2011-03-11)

This beautifully produced book should be introduced to every child and ought to be in every classroom for children to discover.' (Scholastic: Read Me 2011-04-19)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
20 of 20 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A perfect Present 14 Nov 2009
Having just received my first copy of this from Amazon I am now ordering further copies to give as presents to all my nieces and nephews - I may even try and persuade my own youngest children that they are not too old to be read too! The poems themselves are of course classics but Axel Scheffler's beautiful (and funny) illustrations are what will make children treasure this book and demand that it be read and re-read. If you are still in the habit of reading to your children then I urge you to treat yourself and them with this lovely book. You will not regret it.
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13 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Holiday Games 29 July 2004
By rp
Old Possum's Book of Practical Cats is a superb book of light verse. Some of the language might be a little difficult for young children (though it's always good to learn new words), but your kids are certain to warm to such a disreputable bunch of street-cats! Adults too will enjoy the skill and wit of Eliot's rhymes. Personal, I'm a big fan of the poet and I rate this collection alongside The Wasteland and The Love song of J. Alfred Prufrock.
Of all the editions available I think this is the one to own. Edward Gorey's illustrations are very funny (particularly his illustration of 'Firefrorefiddle the Fiend of the Fell!'). If you don't get this one, then the Faber pocket series with the cat painting on the cover is also very nice (that one contains the original illustrations, which are quite sweet).
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars As good as Julia Donaldson! 31 Oct 2010
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Chosing to have this book illustrated by Grufallo artist Axel Scheffler is a masterstroke, and the verse shows how much of a debt long-time Scheffler collaborator Julia Donaldson holds to TS Eliot.
Am must for all Eliot, Donaldson/Scheffler and cat fans.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars cats 30 Oct 2009
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Remembered from school days, brought back many fond memories, enjoyed the poems even more now than in my school days. Liked the black and white illustrations, they add to the humourous note. Funny and gently wicked antics of these memorable cats. A real joy!!!
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
I remember these poems from my own childhood, and loved Bentley's pictures but my children have grown up with Axel Scheffler's Gruffalo and other Julia Donaldson titles and so were attracted immediately to this book by the familiar illustrations and with good reason. And what a wonderful selection of poems we they found inside, accompanied by Scheffler's depictions of the different cats in his easy-going and good-humoured style. T S Eliot's verse is rich with rhythm and rhyme and language that reminds you of a bygone era, and yet the Cats with their many temperaments remain bright, fun and appealing three generations later and it's no wonder that this strong collection sparked a musical that endures equally well. A treasure that no child's bookshelf should be without, and a brilliant gift for a cat-lover of any age.
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23 of 27 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Great Work 5 July 1999
By A Customer
Although easily outselling The Wasteland or, probably, all of Eliot's other works put together, this richly worded collection is frequently dismissed by critics as frivolous. The poems are rarely included in Eliot anthologies and are probably much more frequently read by children than by adults.
However, there is much in Old Possum to intrigue the literary critic - as well as his/her child.
Firstly, the mixture of sounds, the repetition and the language are all distincly Eliot's own. His recurrent themes of the passing of time and nostalgia are all there, and couched in a glorious rhythm so in tune with, say, Four Quartents, that it does not take an expert to find the similarities.
To the child: read this book for fun. To the adult familiar with Eliot's less accessible works: read it to remind yourself of the man behind the poet.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Loving T.S. Eliot 15 Dec 2009
Format:Audio CD
We used to own the same performance on a cassette tape, but it disappeared. I looked everywhere I could think and was so relieved that I could order it on cd from you. It arrived very quickly and was in perfect condition.

We have been enjoying it so much. It is delightful and brings back great memories. John Gielgud and Irene Worth are magnificent.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Wonderful illustrations 12 Nov 2009
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Just seen this book in town and rushed home to buy it (at almost half the price!) My grandchildren love all the books they have with Axel Scheffler illustrations - The Gruffalo, Stick Man etc.- and I know this will be a great favourite. Can't wait to read it with them!
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Great for reading to younger children
Published 4 days ago by RT
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Great for reading to grandchildren.
Published 5 days ago by Mr. P. E. Jones
5.0 out of 5 stars Review
Great !!
Published 13 days ago by dg
5.0 out of 5 stars The readers diction is perfect and a delight to listen too
I have had these poems for years but only recently obtained a c.d. Player hence my purchase !!
The readers diction is perfect and a delight to listen too !
Tony Wilson
Published 21 days ago by Tony Wilson
5.0 out of 5 stars cats
Absolutely loved it. So amusing but also insightful about cat characteristics. Even my carer has read and loved it too. T.S Eliot is a great writer.
Published 26 days ago by Lillian French
1.0 out of 5 stars Disappointed!!!
Front Cover had been written in memory of someone's dead auntie!!! This hadn't been mentioned in the description!!! Read more
Published 29 days ago by sonia
5.0 out of 5 stars Really entertaining, Worth Reading
Bought this book prior to going to see Cats the Musical which is based on the poems in this book, reading this bought the characters in the show to life would definately recommend... Read more
Published 1 month ago by RACHEL
5.0 out of 5 stars 5 star
Great value for money copy of Eliot's 'Old Possum's Book of Practical Cats'. This work benefits being read aloud, we thinks.
Published 1 month ago by eliza
5.0 out of 5 stars Old Possum's Book of Practical Cats
I ordered this book after seing "CATS" - the musical, with my Great- Nephew, who didn't know that the musical was based on this book of poems by T.S.Eliot! Read more
Published 1 month ago by RITA CRAFT
5.0 out of 5 stars Practical cats
Absolute classic
21 years in the west end, nealy 9000 performances, translated into 20 languages. What more can you say, it must have something going for it!
Published 1 month ago by Tony Quick
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