Sunday, November 9, 2014

There's Something About Her: Mary Poppins

Mary Poppins by P.L. Travers
Harper Collins, 1934

I usually do my best to read the book before I see its film adaptation, but Mary Poppins is an exception to this rule. Not only was I a young child when was first introduced to this fascinating character, but I must admit that I never even knew she was based on a book until recent years. And so since recently seeing the film Saving Mr. Banks which chronicles the challenges of Walt Disney getting Poppins author P.L. Travers to agree to sell him the film rights to her story, I was curious. I'd learned that there were numerous changes between.the beloved novel and its equally beloved film.

Blowing into Number 17 Cherry Tree Lane on an East Wind, Mary Poppins is unlike any nanny the Banks family has ever known before, but she couldn't have better timing seeing as their other nanny just quit. Charged with the care of the Banks' four children - yes, that's right. In the book, Jane and Michael have twin younger siblings James and Barbara - Mary Poppins takes them on fantastical adventures and does her job well.

However, Travers' Mary and Disney's Mary aren't exactly identical. While both are firm, determined to get the job done (and done right), and incredibly orderly, they each go about things in their own way. In Disney, she's also extremely kind and caring, a source of sunshine in the lives of everyone she meets. In the hands of Travers, however, she is not one for sentimentality. Often after these magical adventures, she will insist to the children that they never happened and they are being ridiculous. She's also a bit vain, taking great pride in her appearnce and often stopping to admire her reflection in shop windows.

Many of my favorite scenes from the movie are also here, albiet they transpire differently such as the journey into the chalk drawing with Bert, the tea party on the ceiling, and the woman who feeds the birds at St. Paul's Cathedral. And of course, this being a book, there was plenty more happening as well.

All and all, I can see why children of past generations were interested in these stories. While I'm not so sure it'd be my top pick for kids anymore, I think for those who loved the movie and want to know its origins or for children wanting to explore chapter books, this is something they may enjoy. This wasn't my particular favorite read ever as I explore more classics, but I'm glad to have read it once.

Comments welcome, and, as always, happy reading!

1 comment:

  1. How strange they are, the relationships we build with some literature-to-film adaptations and vice versa. Though not anymore, I remember kids in my generation -early, mid eighties- still grew up with the company of Peter Pan, Anne of the Green Gables, the Wizard of Oz, Mary Poppins and so on, but I very much doubt any of us got to read them. I'd even say they were hard to find. But "the past is a foreign country -they do things differently there." Now every kid's acquainted with Harry Potter's adventures on paper, to name one. It's already their classic. I wonder what have we been missing all these years. Should we follow the unstoppable flow of time? Alas, "a poor life this if, full of care, we have no time to stand and stare." Books, books, choices, choices.