“Mary Poppins” by P.L. Travers

One benefit to reading the 501 books is that my friends all know what to buy me for birthdays – books from the list. This one did double service as I read it aloud to my kids so I can give their feedback too.

As with many books which have also been made into films, there’s a large number of changes made between the two versions of the same story. There’s little bursting into song, for a start! But in this case I preferred the film.

I think this was because I couldn’t warm to Mary. She’s depicted as efficient but incurably vain. She never admits to any of the magic stunts she pulls off, and crucially, I found it dull to read aloud. I caught myself editing the text as I went along – trimming boring passages. Each chapter stood alone as an “episode” so there was little ongoing narrative or character development. Apart from a couple of minor characters (the bird lady and the uncle who takes tea on the ceiling) there wasn’t even much by the way of fun dialogue to act out for the children. So for me, this was a fairly ordinary read and wouldn’t go on the “beloved children’s books” shelf.

However, my kids loved it. So perhaps I’m just showing my age. They adored her and begged for a chapter each night. They too have seen the movie and when pressed for a preference insisted that both were brilliant.

For those of you who do like Mary, the good news is that P.L. Travers wrote five other Mary Poppins books after the first one.

(read August 2012)

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