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on January 4, 2008
I had read this book before and loved it, but when I met Boris, a real, live version of Rum Tum Tugger, I had to buy a copy to show his owner.
It is amazing how little had to be done to turn these poems into a great musical comedy. I am, of course, talking about Cats. Most of the poems went directly into the show without any change whatever in their wording, and only three songs were added. Let's give full credit to Mr. Webber, It took a musical genius to do that, and one of the added songs, Memories, could stand alone as a masterpiece in any company, but most of the delight of the show comes from the wonderful feline characters created in this book.
Jennyanydots, Old Deuteronomy, Gus the theatre cat, Spindleshanks, Bustipher Brown, McCavity, Mr. Mistofflees, Mungo Jerry, and Rumpleteaser all moved effortlessly from page to stage with no changes. That has to be some sort of record. If you loved Cats (the show) you need to read this book. If you love cats (the critters) you'll want to read this book. If you like poetry, you should read this book. If you like dogs, read the battle of the Pekes and the Pollicles. (You can skip over the part about the intervention of the great rumpus cat.)
It was written for his godchildren, but it's a great read for everyone. It's not expensive, so get it to read to your children, but read it for yourself first.
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`Old Possum's Book of Practical Cats' by T. S. Eliot is probably known to every literate speaker of English over the age of 18 as the source for most of the material in the very long running Andrew Lloyd Webber stage musical, `Cats'. I believe the long dead Eliot even received a posthumous Tony award for his having done the lyrics for most of the songs in `Cats'.

The book `...Practical Cats' is a part of a very distinguished tradition of animal fantasy works. The most famous contributors to this genre which come to my mind are Lewis Carroll, especially for `Jabberwocky' and the poem of the walrus and the carpenter, and Don Marquis, author of a series of stories collected as `archie and mehitibal', where archie is a cockroach and mehitibal is a rather disreputable cat who would be right at home sharing an alley with Mungojerrie and Rumpelteaser. These are all some of the more distinguished precursors to modern comic strips such as `Garfield', `Heathcliff', `Cats with Hands', `Marmaduke' and `Mutts', not to mention frequent guest appearances in `Ziggy' and that most famous of beagles, Snoopy.

What is so amazing about this collection of poems is that it comes from the pen of the very proper and immensely precocious Professor Eliot. T. S. Eliot is best known for some of the most famously pessimistic poems of the 20th century, `The Hollow Men' and `The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock'. By reputation, he is so prissy, he couldn't stand to be a part of our Babbitish American culture and beat a path to English residence and citizenship.

One of my most cherished memories of T. S. Eliot is a story I heard first hand from the distinguished Johns Hopkins historian of ideas, George Boas who told the story of Eliot's staying with Boas in Baltimore and requesting an introduction to and visit with that most famous Baltimorean, H. L. Menchen. Boas had Menchen over after dinner and Menchen and Eliot sat down together in armchairs by the fire and Eliot said to Menchen `I understand you know something of American politics'. At this point, Menchen slipped into his best newspaper reporter barroom persona with stories of backroom dealings while Eliot slipped more and more firmly into his Oxford donnish persona. While I have no reason to doubt Boas memory, I was delighted to have the story verified in one of Menchen's many posthumously published autobiographical works.

So what is this priggish don doing writing animal fantasy? I'm afraid I can't answer this. All I can say is that T. S. Eliot certainly deserved his Tony and a lot more for this little collection of poems. Eliot's little book contains fifteen (15) poems. Twelve (12) of these became songs in `Cats', although the `Cats' show stopper, `Memories' is not among these twelve. Also, the character who sings this song, Grizabella, is not the subject of any of the poems, although there are some similarities between Grizabella and Growltiger, the subject of one of the three poems not included.

While I have no wish to diminish Eliot's accomplishment with these poems, he certainly knew a good thing when he realized that the animal fantasy genre offers great resources for inventing words and names to facilitate the crafting of great rhymes. Just think about the first verse of `Jabberwocky' and you will know what I mean.

I cannot fail to mention the great Edward Gorey illustrations that come along with this edition. They make the truly tiny price for this little volume more than worth the money. For anyone on the lookout for intelligent things to read to your young'ens, you should add this to your copies of `Winnie the Pooh', `The Hobbit', the stories of Narnia, and `Alice in Wonderland'.
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on March 16, 2006
Book, movie, soundtrack... all good but the book is the best. The book is filled with many cat poems (duh!). My personal favorite is Cat Morgan Introduces Himself, but there are many other good poems too.
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on December 1, 2014
You don't have to understand or even read T. S. Eliot to love this series of adorable poems about the different types of cats. The Broadway show "Cats" is based on these cat characters and each one is different. Plus, the illustrations are wonderful. Recommended for all cat lovers, from 10 to 100.
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on December 14, 2013
Do you want to get to know all the "Cats" better? Did you forget who Rum Tum Tugger was related to? All the characters; All the lyrics; The whole story. Get to know these unforgettable characters a bit better. A great read!
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on February 23, 2014
"Old Possum's Book of Practical Cats" was my first choice for two friends who love and own cats. T. S. Eliot presents the essence of the cat in an enhancing manner, making the reader feel a personal connection to each cat introduced. It is an entertaining book for child and adult. The illustrations are equally enchanting.
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on October 21, 2014
Lost my copy in shelves of my other books. Found it later but its condition was poor and I was very glad to get a hard copy from you. I am making a very special 81/2 x 5 inch scrapbook containing these poems with the drawings and photos from the Broadway musical. You gave me all that I needed to make this project complete.
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on February 5, 2014
Never seen the musical, never read this book, but when I saw the author's name, I knew I had to look. And read. Glad I did; will offer to share with my writers' groups in case none has read/seen the musical. Or if they have seen it but not understood the words, they'll have another shot at this clever cat book. Makes my cats' names sound positively prosaic: Boots, Greye and Bibbs. Geez!
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on April 24, 2003
This book was a delightful read! Poems for everybody to come to love! It was also the inspiration behind the musical Cats, and everybody can certainly see why!
Between some of the cheerful and bubbly poems you'll find, a discussion/interpretation of the social issues surrounding Eliot at that time, giving the reader an insight into the inspiration behind his poetry and into his psychology.
Garnished with lovely illustrations to feed and humor your imagination, Old Possum's Book of Practical Cats has everything to become something for all of the family, and all generations to behold. I couldn't put it down, and it always beckons a re-read!
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on November 18, 2004
This is a rather nice hardcover; not too long or too large a book for your kids but also easily readable by adults. The typeface is good sized and well spaced and the b&w illustrations break up the poems nicely.

It also brings to mind "A Great Big Ugly Man Came Up and Tied His Horse To Me" and should provide an interesting change of pace if your children also read Dr. Suess and Sesame Street.

This is also a good buy to understand more of the wordings from the 'Cats' musical without buying one of the show specific books or having a tatty online printout lying around.
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