Mary Poppins by P. L. Travers
About the author
Pamela Lyndon Travers was born in Australia in 1899 and her birth name was Helen Lyndon Goff. She was first published in her teenage years and also worked briefly as a Shakespearean actress. At the age of 25 she emigrated to England and changed her name to Pamela Lyndon Travers, she adopted the pen name P. L. Travers in 1933, when she started writing the Mary Poppins series. Walt Disney tried for years to get the rights for Mary Poppins to be made into a film, he even visited her several times at her house in London. Eventually Disney obtained the rights and the film Mary Poppins film was released in 1964. Travers did write many other novels, poetry and works of non-fiction but she is mainly remembered for Mary Poppins. She received an OBE in 1977 and died in 1996.
When Mary Poppins arrives at their house on a gust of the East Wind, and slides up the banister, Jane and Michael Banks’s lives are turned magically and wonderfully upside down…
Another book off my Christmas reading list finished and enjoyed. I’ve never read any of the Mary Poppins stories before but I have watched the film many times over, I used to happily sing along to all the songs and must admit I still do. I must admit I am looking forward to the new film coming out but only because one of my students stars in the film. I am not usually a fan of remakes if truth be told. When Waterstones emailed advertising this book I ordered it straight away and got a signed copy, always a thrill.
The first thing I noticed was that the story is abridged which was a little disappointing but the gorgeous illustrations more than made up for that. The story is based around the Banks family who are in need of another nanny and that is where Mary Poppins comes in.
The Banks family consists of Mr Banks the father and head of the house who is rather tight with money and goes out to work each day at the bank. Mrs Banks is the mother and is always out being very busy doing things and making sure the house is running correctly. The children are Michael and Jane the two oldest and the main characters of the story and the young twins John and Barbara who have a chapter of their own but are not otherwise really mentioned. Then there is Mrs Ellen who is the cook, Ellen the maid and Robertson Ay who is the butler but who is also a little useless.
Michael and Jane are rather naughty children and have driven away another Nanny and so Mary Poppins turns up to be the new Nanny. Mary Poppins instantly comes across as different to the children, to begin with she seems to arrive with the wind and then she sits at the bottom of the banister and slides up the staircase. The children know that Mary is different and soon begin to realise her ways and methods. The other thing I love about the children is their view of the world, a good example of this is the fact that they think their dad physically makes money at the bank. When I read this I had the image of Mr Banks sat there cutting out and minting coins and this is what I think the children also imagine their father does each day at work. I found the image adorable and it put a big smile on my face. Travers is a talented writer in this respect and fully understands the way a child’s mind works.
Mary Poppins was a bit of a surprise to me, firstly I could not believe how vain she is, she is constantly looking at her own reflection and deliberately wears clothes and hats that she knows are different and look good on her. The two children get frustrated with her when they go out as she constantly stops at windows to look at herself. In this respect I do not think she sets a good example to the children and I would not like to be around a person who did this either so I understand the children’s frustration. Mary Poppins is also very bossy which I was not happy about but she did get results from the children so I suppose it worked. I also found it odd how she called all birds sparrows, even pigeons, thankfully the children knew better.
I did not find Michael and Jane to be very naughty and thought that the previous nanny must have had a very low threshold of behaviour for the children to drive her to leave. I found the children inquisitive and just like normal happy high spirited children but maybe my opinion is a modern opinion and the time the story was written children were still meant to be seen and not heard.
My favourite chapter was in fact the chapter based around John and Barbara and how when they reach the age of one everything changes. I found this chapter really sweet and it made me smile, it also made me a little sad but in a good way. The illustrations for this chapter also reminded me greatly of the TV series that Child created called Charlie and Lola. The other highlight of this chapter was the cheeky starling.
I did enjoy this book and I want to read the full version and maybe some of the sequels but it did disappoint in some areas, the main being Mary Poppins, she just came across as grumpy. The best characters were the children I loved their naivety and their undying love of Mary Poppins even though they can see her flaws they still love her and have also learnt how to get what they want from her. The other reason I enjoyed this book so much was the illustrations, Child is very talented and she really made the story come alive. I only gave this book 3 out 5 stars because it felt like a lot had been cut from the story and it seemed to detract from the storyline and at times felt rushed and disjointed. Also I struggled to accept Mary Poppins at times.
A beautiful book well worth the read and I will happily recommend it to children and adults. I will leave you with my favourite illustration from the book.
Lady Book Dragon