Friday 7 March 2014

Macavity The Mystery Cat By T.S. Eliot and Arthur Robins

Macavity's a Mystery Cat:
he's called the Hidden Paw—
for he's the master criminal
who can defy the law.
He's the bafflement of Scotland Yard,
the Flying Squad's despair:
for when they reach the scene of crime—
Macavity's not there!
Published by Faber and Faber in May 2014
Pages - 32
One of the best-loved poems from Old Possum's Book of Practical Cats is given a new life in this stunning picture book with illustrations from Arthur Robbins that perfectly convey all the wit and humour of Eliot's creation.
I found this a difficult book to review because I love this poem from T.S. Eliot's Old Possum's Book of Practical Cats and I really enjoyed seeing it produced as a picture
book. However, I'm an adult and this book is aimed at the under-5s. Is T.S. Eliot's poem accessible and comprehensible for such young children? I fear not. 
I set out to see whether my misgivings were justified and tried it out on Dominic, a lively and imaginative four-year-old with excellent language skills. Just as I'd feared, he didn't really understand what was going on in the story, though he knew it was about a naughty cat who was good at hiding. He asked lots of questions; some of them, such as 'What's depravity?', proved a tad tricky to answer. There are other words that proved troublesome, too: stifled, fakir, Foreign Office, treaty, suavity, Napoleon…
But – and this is a very big BUT – the illustrations are brilliant. Arthur Robins has captured the very essence of Macavity, and Dominic and I loved looking closely at the pictures to see what Macavity was up to. We particularly liked the page where he stole the milk jug, and the bloodhound detective is terrific. So if your child loves illustrations over words when you read to him/her, this book will almost certainly go down well. If the words matter most, I'd give this one a miss … unless you want to find yourself defining 'long division' at bedtime. 

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