When we all think of Mary Poppins, we think of that cheeky songstress, she of the wholesome face and flawless skin, Dame Julie Andrews. After all the press surrounding the film Saving Mr. Banks and learning that P.L. Travers was in fact very much against the making and production of her beloved book, I was curious to see how the movie depicted her heroine and the children. I’m very disappointed to report that the book Mary Poppins is nothing like the Julie Andrews I admired and adored in my childhood, nay, my life.
Book Mary Poppins is actually kind of a bitch. She is vain and rather sarcastic and cutting. No wonder Travers objected to the movie! Movie Mary Poppins believes in a spoonful of sugar along with her scornful sniffing, and is much softened from the novel’s nanny. Granted, Book Mary Poppins is nothing perfect, which does in fact make her more human and (at times) more likeable. Bert is still in the novel and still in love with Mary Poppins, so that’s okay by me. Any other reality is not acceptable.
If you’ve seen the movie, there will be some plot points that are familiar–the feeding of the birds, tidying the nursery, Uncle Albert’s laughing tea party, jumping into a chalk picture. There’s also a strange nighttime adventure at the zoo, in which a crazy-old snake sheds his golden skin for Mary Poppins. I refused to look at the pictures, because snakes skeeve me out in a big way.
As a children’s book, Mary Poppins is worth a read, though I’m not sure what sort of “value” I am taking from the book. Maybe just pure entertainment? Either, the second book has come in from the library, so I’m curious enough to keep reading.