Mary Poppins



I’m just going to say it – the movie was better than the book!

I wasn’t really expecting the book to start singing “Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious” to me. Although, wouldn’t that be fabulous?? 

So the book was less musical and a little less magical than I was expecting. I have to add that my memory of the film is a long-ago one. I remember parts of it, mostly the songs, and the chimney sweeps. But while it is a hazy memory, it is a saccharine sweet, cheerful, colorful one. It is a Disney movie so I’m guessing that my recollection is somewhat right!

But the book, it isn’t all sweet:

“Perhaps she was only being nice,” said Jane to soothe him, but in her heart she felt as disturbed as Michael was. She knew very well that Mary Poppins never wasted time in being nice.”

As book-Mary Poppins is less cheery and far stricter than movie-Mary Poppins aka Julie Andrews ever was.

Apparently, author PL Travers couldn’t stand the movie version of her book, partly because of that. The story of the development of her book into the film was turned into Saving Mr Banks, starring Tom Hanks and Emma Thompson. I’ve yet to see it but since finishing book-Mary Poppins I was curious about it and did some googling. It was raved about mostly, with 80% on the Tomatometer but the Time magazine reviewer wasn’t quite convinced:

Saving Mr. Banks tries to turn a lie about securing a book’s film rights into a parable about St. Walt and the Dragon Lady. I hereby denounce the movie and all its works (except for Hanks). But for a few moments there, I was like the movie’s P.L. Travers, helpless under the Disney spell.

But I’m still curious about the struggle to turn the book into the Academy Award-winning 1964 movie. PL Travers refused to give up the copyrights to the rest of the Mary Poppins series, and when she allowed when Cameron Mackintosh to produce the stage musical, she added the condition that only English-born writers and no one from the film production, especially the Disney songwriters, were to be directly involved with creating it.

As for reading this children’s classic as a 30-something, well, I’m not convinced that my younger self would have enjoyed it. Book-Mary Poppins is a little bit, well, cantankerous at times. She’s hardly the kind of nanny who would hug and dance and sing. But you know that deep down inside, she really does care for the kids.

As an adult, parts of the book were rather humorous.

“Where have you been?” they asked her.
“In Fairyland,” said Mary Poppins.
“Did you see Cinderella?” said Jane.
“Huh, Cinderella? Not me,” said Mary Poppins, contemptuously. “Cinderella, indeed!”
“Or Robinson Crusoe?” asked Michael.
“Robinson Crusoe— pooh!” said Mary Poppins rudely.
“Then how could you have been there? It couldn’t have been our Fairyland!”
Mary Poppins gave a superior sniff.
“Don’t you know,” she said pityingly, “that everybody’s got a Fairyland of their own?”

And some bits that were a bit sobering, especially considering that it’s a children’s book

We are all made of the same stuff, remember, we of the Jungle, you of the City. The same substance composes us— the tree overhead, the stone beneath us, the bird, the beast, the star— we are all one, all moving to the same end. Remember that when you no longer remember me, my child.”

So, strict mysterious book-Mary Poppins or sweet singing film-Mary Poppins? I leave it to you to decide! But now I cannot get A Spoonful of Sugar and Chim Chim Cher-ee out of my head.



 I read this book for the Back to the Classics Challenge – A Classic Children’s Book




Mary Poppins, 1934
Mary Poppins Comes Back, 1935
I Go By Sea, I Go By Land, 1941
Aunt Sass, 1941
Ah Wong, 1943
Mary Poppins Opens the Door, 1943
Johnny Delaney,  1944
Mary Poppins in the Park, London: Peter Davies, 1952
Gingerbread Shop, 1952
Mr. Wigg’s Birthday Party, 1952
The Magic Compass, 1953
Mary Poppins From A to Z, 1963
The Fox at the Manger, 1963
Friend Monkey,  1972
Mary Poppins in the Kitchen, 1975
Two Pairs of Shoes, 1980
Mary Poppins in Cherry Tree Lane, 1982
Mary Poppins and the House Next Door, 1988.

Stories from Mary Poppins, 1952

Moscow Excursion, 1934
George Ivanovitch Gurdjieff, 1973
About the Sleeping Beauty,  1975





  1. I have not either read the book or seen the movie for a very long time. You make me want to revisit both! I’m afraid Saving Mr Banks is not a good way to learn about the history behind the movie because as far as I know it’s highly inaccurate. I would watch it for the performances though.


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