Book: Cat Poems; Selected by Myra Cohn Livingston; Illustrated by Trina Schart Hyman
For this month’s picture book, I’m taking things way back. Cat Poems: published in 1987. Realistically it’s not that long ago, but for me this is one of the ultimate flashback to childhood books. I never owned a copy of the book, and it honestly was not a book that I have thought about much since elementary school. Yet, I was thrilled when my librarian friend at work put it on my desk one day. We are both cat ladies, so when she came across it while re-shelving she thought it would be funny to share. She was as surprised by my reaction as I was to see the book.
My elementary school had a yearly speech competition. The expectations for this varied between grades, but for the time I was there always focused on poetry. Each student was to choose a poem to memorize and recite in front of the class. Top students were chosen from each class to read in front of the school. Most students went to the most popular of poets at the time: Shel Silverstein. Not me. I was not going to memorize the same poem as anyone else. And, of course, it needed to be about cats. I convinced my mom to take me to the “real library” where I found this book. Despite being a pretty shy kid, and horrified of public speaking, this book took me to the semi-finals in three consecutive school years.
It really is exactly what you would expect: a collection of poems about cats. Based on the copyright information, there are a few original to the book, plus several others from various authors. The most famous, I suspect, being The Song of the Jellicles by T.S. Eliot. Most of the poems are light hearted or funny, although there are a few that are on the sad or spooky side as well. I was surprised that I remembered parts of quite a few, even after so many years. Each poem is also paired with a drawing, some a simple cat illustration in the corner and others with much greater detail that incorporate the poem into a full-page illustration. While there is certainly a nostalgic aspect to this for me personally, I think this is a nice little collection as an introduction to poetry.
Boris’s Thoughts: “You are so predictable.”