It’s a Jolly Holiday with Mary: Mary Poppins by PL Travers

January 20, 2014 Children's Fiction 34

Cheerio Bookworms,

I don’t know if I’ve ever mentioned this before, but you should know before we start that Mary Poppins is my favorite movie of all time. Of course, I used to turn it off right after the crew finishes yucking it up on the ceiling because the whole chimney sweep bit used to frighten me as a kid, but I digress. I think I always knew somewhere in the back of my head that Mary Poppins started as a book, but I was never especially interested in reading it until Saving Mr. Banks was released. Sadly for Disney, it didn’t inspire me to go see the movie, just to pick up the book. It’s alright. Disney has gotten more than enough of my money.

I had heard that PL Travers’ Mary Poppins was quite a bit different than the Mary of the movie I so adored, so I was nervous going into it. Really, I was mostly nervous that the dancing penguins were a complete Disney fabrication. I am pleased to report that my nerves were wholly unfounded. Yes, PL Travers’ original Mary Poppins
was rather different than the movie. Many of the adventures played out a bit differently, but I found the spirit of the stories remained the same.

Mary Poppins descends on 17 Cherry Tree Lane one blustery afternoon. The FOUR Banks children (that’s right, Jane, Michael, and a set of infant twins named John and Barbara) are immediately in her thrall. Though she’s somewhat vain and not particularly snuggly, Mary manages to put a bit of magic into the mundane.


Mary spends an afternoon with Bert (who is not a chimney sweep) jumping into a chalk painting, and though no penguin waiters present themselves, they have a lovely tea regardless. Jane and Michael are treated to flavor changing medicine, laugh themselves up to the ceiling with Uncle Albert, and we learn that Mary can converse with animals. Mary’s Doolitle-y talents lead to a particularly entertaining birthday celebration at the zoo featuring the loveliest PENGUIN poet you can possibly imagine (I breathed an audible sigh of relief when he showed up!) Oh yes. And do you recall little Andrew, the tiny dog in the sweater? He lives a more fascinating life than I ever imagined!

Though it’s rare for me, it sometimes happens that I can enjoy a book and its movie adaptation equally, but for different reasons. Mary Poppins is destined to be utterly charming in any form. I highly recommend you read this, and if you have little ones, get it in the bedtime story rotation.

Alright, Bookworms. What was your favorite movie as a kid? Was it based on a book? Have you read that book? 

*If you make a purchase through a link on this site, I will receive a small commission. I intend to use it to purchase a new umbrella in hopes that someday one will allow me to fly.*


34 Responses to “It’s a Jolly Holiday with Mary: Mary Poppins by PL Travers”

  1. Darlene

    I think I’ve mentioned this before but I’d say a favorite movie of mine is/was The Wizard of Oz, and in this case, I have read the book and the movie is way better. I think that happens, only rarely, and it sure did happen in this case.

    My other favorite movie as a kid was The Goonies. And I don’t think that was a book, but I have never checked.

    Now I want to read, and watch, Mary Poppins.

  2. Ashley Z

    I actually downloaded this book a while ago and have it in my tbr list that just keeps piling up! Mary Poppins is definitely among the list of favorite movies as a kid. Along with Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory (read the books!) and Wizard of Oz (sadly, haven’t read the book) Goonies will always be a classic for me “goonies never say die!” And I always loved Labrynth (kinda creepy yes)

  3. Jennifer

    Actually a few of my favorite movies were books: Mary Poppins, the Wizard of Oz, Bedknobs and Broomsticks, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. The list goes on and on!

  4. Megan M.

    I didn’t realize Mary Poppins was a book until I saw the trailer for Saving Mr. Banks. I’m a bad bookworm! I’ll have to check it out (the book) because it sounds awesome.

    Honestly, my favorite movies as a kid were Teen Witch and Mannequin and the Ninja Turtles movie with Vanilla Ice, BUT I also really loved The Secret Garden (I recently saw the kid who played Dickon all grown up in something and I swear I melted into a puddle of goo.) I didn’t read the book until after the movie, but I loved it just as much.

  5. Jayne

    You should definitely see Saving Mr Banks! It was wonderful. It was very interesting to learn about PL Travers’s background and find out more about the things that inspired her. I do want to read the Mary Poppins books, they’re on my Paperback Swap request list, so I hope they become available soon!

  6. Julie

    Ah, Mary Poppins is a great movie and excellent musical. I don’t actually think I’ve ever read the book though. I’ll have to look into getting it to read to our future kids.

    • Words For Worms

      YES!!!! The bankers begin the whole “freaked me out” sequence. Then it moves right into the Chimney Sweeps and then they’re all stepping in time and no. The happiest part of the movie for me is (obviously) the sequence in the chalk painting. Penguins AND Carousel Horses? Do you even KNOW how many times I imagined my Merry-Go-Round horse would jump off the ride and take me for a spin? That was all Disney’s addition, but I love the crap out of it.

  7. Jennine G.

    I’m glad it came out ok for you! I loved The Wizard of Oz and Disney’s Alice in Wonderland. I’m afraid to read the books because I love the movies so much.

    I did hear from many people that Saving Mr. Banks was amazing…and some were people who wouldn’t like of see that type of movie. You should go see it!

    • Words For Worms

      Don’t be afraid to read Alice in Wonderland, it’s better than any of the movies I’ve seen. The Wizard of Oz, on the other hand, is very very different from the movie… The movie is just so iconic I’m not sure I liked the book the way I love the movie.

  8. Elizabeth

    The Princess Bride is my obvious childhood movie choice. I have to say…I wanted to like the book as much as the movie, but I think A. I was a bit too young to appreciate the finer points of the novel when I read it and B. When the love you have for something has reached mythic proportions, it’s really hard to come up to those expectations. I’ve been thinking for a while I’d like to give it a reread, so I might do that this year and see what I think.

  9. Stacy (The Novel Life)

    Mary Poppins and Pollyanna were my two faves growing up. . .still are. And both books are on my classics challenge list to read ~ I can’t believe I’ve never read either one but I’ve seen the movies so many times I can recite entire passages!

  10. Monika

    THE NEVERENDING STORY! That was definitely my favorite movie as a kid. I want a luckdragon!!!!!!!!

    I did love Mary Poppins, though. Need to check out this book!

  11. Christy (A Good Stopping Point)

    I also loved the movie Mary Poppins, but don’t really have an interest in Saving Mr. Banks. Maybe I’ll read the book someday – I’m intrigued by the differences. As for other childhood movie favorites, my sisters and I loved The Little Mermaid. Obviously, the original story is very very different. We also had a strong affection for a tv movie called Crossing to Freedom with Peter O’Toole, and that was based on Nevil Shute’s Pied Piper, and so is responsible for me reading other Nevil Shute books like the lovely A Town Like Alice (which was also later adapted to tv, but isn’t easily available).

    • Words For Worms

      You read this for one of your bout of books or readathons or something and I was like “I cannot wait any longer!!!” So really, I read this because I want to be as cool as you.

  12. Emily

    My family members still give me a hard time about how many times I watched Mary Poppins on repeat as a child. I’m happy to hear the book can stand on it’s own even without all of the amazing dancing and songs. I’ll have to check it out!

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