Originally planned by T S Eliot but never actually started, this present title was to be the companion volume to his Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats, first published in 1939. This entirely new light verse collection has appeared under Eliot’s original title, taken from his occasional chauffeur who once explained to the poet that his own non-pedigree pet was ‘not what you’d call a consequential dog.’ Christopher Reid, the replacement poet, was also Poetry Editor at Faber for eight years, and while not in the same league as his great forebear is still a fiendishly good and creative rhymester. Accompanying illustrations by Elliot Elam are also a joy, using only two colours and never at a loss for bang on amusing detail.
So here is a book for all ages. Children may not pick up references to Caruso or the avant-garde, but they will always have a clear notion of where each particular poem is going. The twenty-two on offer, some of them stretching over three pages, explore the inhabitants of a varied canine world from a sleepy Dog Detective to a fearfully pampered but totally frustrated lap dog. The whole book is beautifully produced and has a pleasantly old-fashioned look to it. And while Reid’s poems use orthodox rhyming schemes and regular metres, his wit is topical and never in the least predictable. This is a book to possess and enjoy.