Last week we were house sitting for a friend on the other side of town. Realising I couldn’t possibly bring all of S’s toys across town with us for a week, I decided instead to stop at a book shop on our way and treat S to a new book.
We love our local book shop; they have a fish tank and it’s a very comfortable place for a toddler to hang out and browse through the books. In the end, we chose Macavity
because we were off to look after a cat for the week.
I won’t insult your intelligence by telling you that Macavity the mystery cat is known as The Hidden Paw and the Napoleon of Crime; TS Eliot’s poem was first published in 1939 so it’s a safe bet he is not new to most people.
Macavity the Mystery Cat was one of several poems about cats published in Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats, Eliot’s only book for a younger audience. The book was the basis for the musical Cats, and I remember learning the song of this poem at school in the 1980s (I know, I can’t believe I’m that old either)
The cat himself was modelled on Moriarty from the Sherlock Holmes stories; a perfect criminal mastermind whom the police are unable to catch.
I loved the poem as a child, and enjoyed imagining all the dastardly deeds Macavity might have committed. This book is a 75th anniversary edition, with illustrations by Arthur Robins
, whose work you may be familiar with from numerous other children’s books (and cartoons etc).
I have enjoyed reading this with S; each time Macavity’s not there she loved to point out where there was a trace of him on the page:
Although obviously a two year old is not likely to understand what lines like his powers of levitation would make a fakir stare mean in the slightest, she understands the general gist of the book and enjoys the illustrations and the rhythm of the poem. It’s also a book that will (hopefully) still be fun to read as she gets older, and Eliot’s original book is apparently considered suitable reading for 11-year-olds.
I love the idea of introducing her to such old literature by such a great poet. I also love introducing her to the same poem that I enjoyed as a youngster. Plus, with Cats the stage show being such a success, it will be lovely for her to see a familiar poem in a show (even if by then it’s finally finished its stint in the West End – it’s still a film and a massive part of our culture).
I think considering this is a 75-year-old poem by a man who only produced one book for younger readers, it is still just as much fun for children as it was when first published. S has enjoyed having it read to her, and I even caught her reading it to herself the other night, when she should have been asleep!