Purpose of this Blog...

You may have noticed that not all books are equal in capturing children's imaginations and in cultivating those innocent, tender souls. My goal is to help you find the ones that do!
(Painting by Mary Cassatt: "Mrs Cassatt Reading to her Grandchildren" -1888)

Monday, October 10, 2011



Old Possum's Book of Practical Cats
Early edition illustrated by Eliot himself

Jellicle Cats come out to-night
Jellicle Cats come one come all:
The Jellicle Moon is shining bright -
Jellicles come to the Jellicle Ball.

Jellicle Cats are black and white,
Jellicle Cats are rather small;
Jellicle Cats are merry and bright,
And pleasant to hear when they caterwaul.

Jellicle Cats have cheerful faces,
Jellicle Cats have bright black eyes;
They like to practise their airs and graces
And wait for the Jellicle Moon to rise...

"Jellicle" is one of many nonsense words invented by T.S. Eliot (in the spirit of Edward Lear and Lewis Carroll). The word shows up in an unpublished poem and in a letter to his godson Tom, in which he sent a spoof party invitation "To All Pollicle Dogs and Jellicle Cats".  It's been noted that "...Pollicle Dogs was a corruption of "poor little dogs", just as Jellicle Cats are "dear little cats". (Maybe three-year-old Tom's mispronunciation?)    Source: an article in The Telegraph, that can be found HERE.

T. S. Eliot’s playful cat poems have delighted readers and cat lovers around the world ever since they were first published in 1939 as Old Possum's Book of Practical Cats, with simple illustrations by the author.  Eliot's 14 original poems were included in a series of letters written to his godson, with Eliot himself posing as "Old Possum".  My favorite edition of the book came out in 1982, with illustrations by Edward Gorey.  Gorey's merry, yet sinister, depictions of cats are perfectly paired with Eliot's mischievously charming poems.

The book inspired Andrew Lloyd Webber's legendary musical, CATS, which opened in London's West End in 1981 and on Broadway in 1982.

I still have my program from a Los Angeles production my husband and I went to see at the Shubert Theatre for our second anniversary in 1985!  If you were lucky enough to see the musical, CATS, you might be interested in reading this excellent review by Janet Karsten Larson, Eliot's Cats Come Out Tonight.  It brought back great MEMORIES for me...wink, wink.

I'll end this post with a few lines from Eliot's "THE AD-DRESSING OF CATS"

...You now have learned enough to see
That Cats are much like you and me
And other people whom we find
Possessed of various types of mind.
For some are sane and some are mad
And some are good and some are bad
And some are better, some are worse--
But all may be described in verse...
But -
How would you ad-dress a Cat?
So first, your memory I'll jog,
And say: 


  1. Looking at the letter makes me sad to think that emails will vanish into the ether. I suppose when letters became typed instead of hand written there was much opposition too.

    Edward Gorey's cover is gorgeous isn't it?

  2. As time and technology march forward, so many hand-done things get left behind. It makes me sad, too. And very nostalgic.
    Oh, and yes - the cover - love Edward Gorey!