“But Jane and Michael were not taken in by that snap. For they could see in Mary Poppins’s eyes something that, if she were anybody else but Mary Poppins, might have been described as tears…” – Mary Poppins
Earlier this month I shared part of my Book Bucket List. It is a list of books that I feel I must read in my lifetime. It differs from my To Be Read list in that these are books that I really feel compelled to read for one reason or another. On the other hand, my To Be Read list is a list of books that I think look interesting or amusing or that someone gave to me and I’d like to read eventually. But they are not books that I’ve always wanted to read nor will I be devastated if I don’t get to them in my lifetime.
My Book Bucket List consists of a variety of titles of literature for adults and children. Maybe it’s a book that has been traditionally controversial and I need to know what all the fuss is about. Maybe it’s a historically important piece of literature. Or maybe it’s a book I’ve heard referenced throughout my life but have never read myself. In some cases, they are books from my childhood, classic children’s tales that I remember enjoying but am fuzzy on the stories themselves. So I’d like to revisit them as an adult to fully appreciate their contributions to children’s literature and to my childhood as well. My January Book Bucket List pick is Mary Poppins by P.L. Travers.
Like many others, my first introduction to Mary Poppins was in the Disney film version. I’ve seen it countless times and didn’t know it was based on a series of books until I was an adult. In 2013, my mother and I saw the film Saving Mr. Banks starring Emma Thompson as P.L. Travers and Tom Hanks as Walt Disney. It was the story of Mr. Disney’s struggle to turn Ms. Travers’s books into a film. It was an excellent film with a wonderful behind-the-scenes look at the making of Mary Poppins. In the film, we see how very dear the character of Mary Poppins is to Ms. Travers as well as glimpses of her childhood that inspired the stories. It made me curious to read the books and to get to know Mary Poppins myself.
It’s important to note that Mary Poppins is only the first title in a series of books about the mysterious nanny and her adventures with the Banks children. Now that I’ve read the first book, I’d like to read the others. As tends to happen with books-turned-films, there were some differences between the Mary Poppins on the pages and the Mary Poppins on the screen.
The first and most glaring difference was that in the book, there are four Banks children, not only two as depicted in the film. While it’s true that Jane and Michael Banks are older and have most of the interactions with Mary Poppins, the infant twins, John and Barbara Banks, are left out entirely in the film.
Of course there were scenes in the book that didn’t make it into the film. That is to be expected with any adaptation. But there were also some scenes in the film that were missing from the book – Jane and Michael’s kite being damaged and the children spending time alone with Bert the chimney sweep (who isn’t a chimney sweep in the book but a match man). But perhaps those scenes take place in later books and I just haven’t gotten there yet. In addition, Mr. Banks doesn’t seem to be much of a presence at all in the book while he is the main focus of the children in the film. The film versions of Jane and Michael seemed desperate for their father’s attention and affection. But the book versions of Jane and Michael seemed to accept that their father was a busy man and didn’t press the subject.
Overall, I feel that the Disney film version stuck very closely to the character of Mary Poppins and the first book in the series. In the book as well as in the film, Mary Poppins comes off to me as sort of cold and distant. She is most certainly a no-nonsense nanny but sometimes the lack of warmth or affection seemed a tad unkind. She also admires herself quite a bit in the book, often stopping to look at her own reflection in shop windows while out with the children. I found that amusing. I am glad that I have finally read Mary Poppins and perhaps I’ll read more of the books in the series this year.
Have you read Mary Poppins? If so, what did you think of it? Do you think the film did the book justice?