Published: June 1st, 2006
Mary Poppins (Mary Poppins #1)
By: P.L. Travers
HMH Books for Young Readers
From the moment Mary Poppins arrives at Number Seventeen Cherry-Tree Lane, everyday life is forever changed at the Banks house is forever changed.
It all starts when Mary Poppins is blown by the east wind onto the doorstep of the Banks house. She becomes a most unusual nanny to Jane, Michael, and the twins. Who else but Mary Poppins can slide up banisters, pull an entire armchair out of an empty carpetbag, and make a dose of medicine taste like delicious lime-juice cordial? A day with Mary Poppins is a day of magic and make-believe come to life!
I have read all manner of classic and modern classic children's books, during my childhood and as an adult. But somehow while reading about red-headed orphan girls, wardrobes that led to magical worlds, a great Emerald city, and the immortal Tuck family, I somehow never managed to read any of the books about Mary Poppins. This, the first book in the series, introduces us readers to Mary Poppins, a magical nanny who comes to the Banks family in their hour of need. The children Jane, Michael, and the baby twins (John and Barbara) are in need of a nanny. Mary herself is somewhat vain, no-nonsense, strict and yet somehow bordering on magical. The most peculiar things truly do happen when Mary is about - but you'll never get her to admit to them. This book follows Mary's adventures with the children, through a series of vignettes chronicling their life together. That is, until Mary leaves on the wind just as she first came to them.
Sometimes a series of vignettes instead of structured chapters can do a book some good. It certainly didn't hurt Jean Webster at all and looking back, L.M. Montgomery's style was similar and on the border of it, if not quite uniform to this particular format of writing. In regards to how much it resembles the Disney movie based on it, the answer to that would be not all that much. There are a few scenes, such as the chalk picture day, although its a date between Bert and Mary, and doesn't include the children at all. Also, Bert is only in the one chapter of the entire book. Noticeably the same was the scene with Mary's Uncle Albert, who serves them tea in midair and the Bird Lady was also included. The next door neighbor's dog Andrew has his own story, all about how he wants to be a common street dog, rather than the coddled thing that he is currently.
There are other stories with zero similarities whatsoever. Mary Poppins takes the children Christmas shopping and they help one of the stars (Pleiades to be exact) find gifts for her sisters. The one involving the night zoo, with all the humans as the attractions, quite possibly wins for most bizarre story. And the one with the gingerbread lady and the paper stars was beautiful. But the absolute best was John and Barbara's story, about losing their ability to speak to the winds and the starlings. It was so melancholy for a kid's book! It did seem somewhat choppy at times, and there was also the conundrum of Mary. She definitely came across as a cold, strict, sarcastic bitch for a good portion of the book. Then you'd get a glimpse of her caring heart and it would soften the blows of her words/actions. All in all, I enjoyed it and I'm glad that I read it. But I think that I would have been better served to be introduced to this world as a child and not a cynical adult.
VERDICT: 3.5/5 Stars
**No money or favors were exchanged for this review. This book is now available in stores, online, or maybe even at your local library.**