Do you love the music from the musical Cats!? These are the poems that inspired the show! Surprisingly enjoyable and accessible for young readers.
This book works really well for introducing poetry to children in a way that is enjoyable and fun. When I ask kids about poetry I usually get a “that’s boring” comment. When I play them a snippet of the music from Cats! combined with the matching page from this book – well the response is really fun. They discover that music lyrics are often poems, that the musical came from a book, that the songs match word for word the actual poems written by T.S. Eliot, AND that there are some cool Easter Eggs for those who are willing to search.
From the Book
“You’ll save yourself time, and you’ll spare yourself labour
If jist you make friends with the Cat at the door.“
Get the Book
This book is a great example of what you can find at Little Free Libraries, community sharing libraries, and the for-sale shelf at your local library. We have had our copy for quite a few years. I can’t remember exactly where I found it, but it was a Little Free Library or something similar.
This version can be found new at bookstores. Look for the illustrated version of the title. The current cover looks different than mine – you can see an example here.
If You Like This Book
If your child likes this book, try other books of poetry, books about cats, and books illustrated by Alex Scheffler. You might recognize his work, since several of his other books – The Gruffalo and Room on a Broom to name a few – are popular best sellers.
Expansion Circle Ideas
Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats works very well with Expansion Circle activities.
An Expansion Circle is a method that you can use to expand beyond the book – taking you on a learning adventure as you explore other subject areas by using the book as a springboard for context. The experience feels less like learning and more like an exciting treasure hunt.
Think of taking a blank sheet of paper and putting a dot in the middle. The book is the dot. Now draw a big circle around your dot. Along the circle you can put the topics you want to expand out to and explore more.
The point of an Expansion Circle is to have fun discovering new things. Be careful about two things – don’t make this activity into “work,” and don’t quiz or test your child for knowledge on the topic.
Let your child lead the way with what interests them. The possibilities are endless. Do not feel that you must include every subject, or even any specific subject. One child may go gangbusters for the geography of a book, another may want to see other books by the author or illustrator. Still another may want to act out a scene – if the book was made into a musical (as this book was) or a play or a film.
Expansion Circle ideas for this book include:
- Music: Purchase a CD of the songs from the musical Cats! and listen to them together. The songs match the poems nearly exactly. It’s a brilliant way to introduce children to the genre of musicals and to memorize some poetry.
- Geography: The poems are set in London. Pull out your globe or world map. Find England, find London. For bonus points go to a bookstore that carries maps (or a local travel agency like AAA) and ask for a map of London. See if you can track down the locations used in the poems.
- Drama: Put together a costume like one of the cats and act out the poem.
- Art: Gather the materials used to illustrate this book (see the copyright page for that information) and try your hand at drawing in Alex Scheffler’s style. You could also trace an illustration and learn how to transfer it to a clean piece of paper – creating a coloring page of your own.
- Field Trip: Go see the musical when Cats! is being performed in your local community!
- Grammar: Explore the “English English” used in this book as compared to “American English.”
Author: T.S. Eliot
Illustrator: Axel Scheffler (this edition)
Copyright: 1939, 1953 T.S. Eliot, 1967 Esme Valerie Eliot
Illustrations Copyright: 2009 Axel Scheffler
Publisher: Faber and Faber Limited
Age Range: Emerging Readers and Independent Readers, approximately age 7/8 to 12 (as well as fluent readers in middle school and high school)