Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Mary Poppins - a book review



When I was in kindergarten, my mother took me to my first movie- Mary Poppins.  I remember being enchanted with the dancing and the music and I thought the bird woman was so lovely in a sad sort of way.  But I particularly liked the scene where Mary Poppins and the children jump into the chalk picture with Burt! And I could never ever hope to float in the air from being too happy like Uncle Albert,  although I tried!.  The highlight of my kindergarten memories was being asked to come forward and tell my class about the movie and discovering that by relaying the story I could get other people engaged and getting them to laugh.

So Mary Poppins has a special place in my heart and when I saw it on the book list last year over Bravewriter, I was excited to have a chance to read the actual book that inspired the movie and share that with my kids.

As much as I love and have fond memories of the movie - it was nothing like the book.  The book is MUCH better.

For starters Mary Poppins is much snippier, snappier, cross and arrogant than as portrayed by Julie Andrews in the movie.  Gabe and Noah aren't even quite sure if they really liked Mary Poppins other than the fact that she was extraordinary and extraordinary things happened around her. Burt, the chimney sweep has a very minor role in the book and the entire part of the movie about the bank and the children depositing their toppence instead of giving it to the bird woman was pure Walt Disney. P.L. Travers had nothing like it in her book!

But what puzzles me is the stuff that Disney left out of the movie!   Besides the children Jane and Michael, the book has the twins, John and Barbara.  My favorite chapter in the book focuses on the twins who has new borns have the ability to talk to the animals, and the sunshine, but will lose this ability before they have their first birthday.  The only person who has retained that ability beyond babyhood - is Mary Poppins.  That chapter is charming and a little sad but such a well written and beautiful part of the book. 

Mary Poppins and the four children also travel around the world in the blink of an eye, and have a big birthday party at the zoo where all of the animals talk and give reverence to Ms. Poppins.  There is also a wonderful chapter about a dancing cow and about Mary Poppins helping to hang stars in the sky.  It is all absolutely delightful.

I had planned at the end of our study of Mary Poppins to reward the boys and myself by watching the movie.  But I didn't do it.  As far as the story goes, the movie doesn't stand up to the book.    I think it's time for a film maker to make the REAL Mary Poppins, and do it better this time!









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