Stephanie's Reviews > Mary Poppins

Mary Poppins by P.L. Travers
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Oct 12, 07

bookshelves: favorites, magicmakers, mycuppa
Recommended for: enjoy being mean to children
Read in January, 1978

OK, here's the thing: P.L. Travers's Mary Poppins is not Walt Disney's Mary Poppins. Weirdly, I love both versions equally, although Travers's portrayal of adult-child relationships is more accurate, I think. In the book, the kids clearly inhabit a fantasy world of which their parents are completely oblivious. Mary Poppins, an acid-tongued nanny, serves as a conduit to these fantasy worlds, which are often quite dangerous. Under Mary's protection, the Banks children explore some dark, glorious worlds, then are safely transported back home.

Unlike Disney, Travers doesn't try to reconcile the kids to their parents. As far as she's concerned, they inhabit two different worlds, and shouldn't be encourged to mix them. And you know what? She's right.

For the record, I do love the movie Mary Poppins, with its gorgeous costumes and sets, not to mention brilliant performances by Julie Andrews and Dick Van Dyke. This is one of the rare cases, like Walkabout, when a movie studio had a diametrically opposed idea of the author's vision, yet managed to create a work of art in the process. Compare and contrast the two and tell me what you think in a 20-page, double spaced essay, and don't forget the footnotes.
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Comments (showing 1-6 of 6) (6 new)

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Stephanie Yeah! I love the Mrs. Corry and the paste-on stars!!! The whole book is awesome. So glad you love it, too!


Wendy I love both the book and the movie, too. The movie hardly ever gets the sense of mysticism of the books, which is too bad, because those are probably the best parts of the movie. And I do fastforward through the chalk picture scene--but then, I skim that scene in the book, too, even though they're quite different.

Sophisticated children's books are the best.


Stephanie Hey Wendy,

I think the music really makes the movie a classic unto itself...Tuppence a Bag is an old standard around my house. (Usually I sing it to my cat, crooning, "Feed me birds...tuppence a bag.") I also love the melancholy opening chords of "Chim-Chim-Chiree", especially when Bert is cleaning the chimney, singing of the beautiful rooftops of London, and then whispers, "Coo...what a sight."

In terms of the chalk picture scene, it's definitely not my favorite, but there is some extremely cute flirting between Andrews and Van Dyke here.

I think the "I Love to Laugh" scene is wonderfully silly. Usually, I'm pretty grouchy when it opens, but I usually yield to its infectious laughter. I think it has something to do with the interplay between Van Dyke and Ed Wynn.

In terms of sophisticated children's books, have you read Tom's Midnight Garden? Do you have any other kidlit books to recommend that fit in this category?


Josephine Thank you; I was beginning to feel that I was the only one who preferred the books to the movie!


Stephanie Hi Josephine,

Yes, they are two entirely different stories. The book is dark, with moments of light, and the movie is light, with moments of dark. P.L. Travers was not happy with the Disney treatment, from what I understand.


Callie Rose Tyler i don't understand what you mean when you say that adults and children should not mix?


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