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4.3 out of 5 stars104
4.3 out of 5 stars
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VINE VOICEon 20 June 2005
If you're buying this because you or your children love the film of Mary Poppins, don't expect the same slightly stern but very twinkly-eyed Mary as the one so fantastically portrayed by Julie Andrews. PL Travers' original and best Mary can be quite harsh with a rare show of tenderness limited to a "Hmph" as she tucks you in, but for all that, this is a book not to be missed. There are some valuable lessons for children and adults alike; some laugh-out-loud moments and some real tear-jerkers (see the chapter entitled "John and Barbara's Story". The film-makers took enough similarities from the book that children can recognise the Mary they know and love (sliding up the stairs, the carpet bag, the flavour-changing medicine etc.) but many of the adventures with Mary Poppins in this book are marvellously different. This book is a joy for adults to read aloud to children and despite explaining to my 6 year-old daughter that the stories in this original book of Mary Poppins were quite different to the film, she loves this book and eagerly awaits each night's chapter. A real gem and justifiably a classic - you'll be very sad to reach the end of the book.
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Katie Nana has left the Banks family in need of a new nanny. But before they know it, a woman blows in on the East Wind. Literally. She takes the position of caring for the four children, Jane, Michael, and the twins John and Barbara. But with her extremely prim and proper attitude comes magical adventures. A day in the park, having tea, running errands, and even Christmas shopping can turn into an adventure when Mary's around. And the kids love it.
This most decidedly is not the Disney Mary Poppins. Disney toned her down significantly for his movie, making her heart easier to see. Still, it's there if you look closely in the book. I had forgotten just how hard it is to see at times behind Mary's outward appearance and actions. Still, the kids come to love her because they know where they really stand.
As with all books in the series, this one is a series of adventures. Each chapter tells it's own story, each story it's own fun, magical adventure.
Those looking for Disney's Mary will be greatly disappointed. But anyone looking for a fun series of adventures will find a woman who does care for those around her, even if it's not always super obvious.
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First I have a confession to make, I was in my twenties before I even saw the Disney movie, and I must admit that I loved it. Now many years later I have got round to reading the first book in the Mary Poppins collection, there are another five novels as well as this one.

The Disney film was based on this book and its sequel, but of course there are things not mentioned in the book that were in the film, and vice versa. I won't go into depth of what the story is about, because we all know that Mary appeared as a nanny to look after the Banks' children. Reading this book though you see that like Gaskell's 'Cranford' the story is really made up of a number of sketches, and thus is not a conventional style novel; indeed you could read it as a series of short stories all about Mary Poppins. Mary herself is a bit darker than in the film and she is very vain.

Even at my age this book had me laughing out loud at some of the things said and some of the incidents, so this shows that it is definitely a book for all ages. This is a novel that you can read to little children, and when they are older they can read by themselves, and when they are really older they can still read to themselves, or to their children. Some books are classics for all people and this story aptly falls into that group.
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TOP 100 REVIEWERon 4 August 2014
There can't be a child alive now who actually reads this book in ignorance of the Disney film. And I count myself here too. Anybody reading this will have their reading of it coloured by Julie Andrews and the famous songs and scenes of the film. And this doesn't help the book, in some ways.

I wish I knew how I'd view this story if I'd not seen the film first. I suspect I'd have liked it - it's pretty magical still, with the parrot umbrella, magic medicine and upward banister travel, the ceiling lunch, chalk drawings. But if you're reading this to your child expecting dancing penguins, chimney-top dancing and the moving father-child scenes at the end, think again. Uncle Walt put those in. Sorry.

This is on my son's shelf and I do intend to share it with him when he's old enough. There are some great chapters here that I didn't remember - the midnight zoo and the twins' chapter (Jane and Michael's baby siblings have a chapter of their own which is adorable) are my favourites. I didn't like Mrs Corry at all, a very strange chapter and character that I found disturbing. Bert hardly appears, it's much more a sequence of stories and adventures and around Mary and the children. So it's very different to the film, which apparently (as I can't say I've read any of the others) is based on chapters from several of Travers' volumes.

I would treat them as two different and quite separate things I think. My son is three and a half and wants to see the film (after ad nauseum repeats of the songs in the car) so I know he'll be seeing this before we read it. I know at this age he'll be enchanted by the film whereas the book, which most certainly is a classic of its time will have an appeal when he's older. And I'll be talking to him about the differences between the two and why he thinks Walt Disney changed things.

Mary Poppins is a contradiction in the book - still vain and snooty, but lets her hair down with Bert. And with Sophie Thompson's excellent reading can sound almost common when she forgets herself.

I reread this as an audiobook, and thoroughly enjoyed it this way. The narration was excellent, beautifully English. I expect Travers would approve. I was spurred to read it again by 'Saving Mr Banks', the recent film. Maybe the whole series of Poppins books needs to be read to understand her a little better, but I did get a good feel for the period, the middle class family, and the gentle magic that I'm sure enchanted readers long before Walt persuaded her to allow him his penguins.

Has to be read. But don't let the film spoil it for you.
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Don't buy this book and give it to your grandchild on the assumption that it is a novelization of the Disney film you know so well. This Mary Poppins is narcissistic, imperious, high-handed and demanding. The fantasy is darker and the magic is older than anything current movie-makers, (or children's authors), would touch. This Mary Poppins is primal and austere - and for the right kind of young reader I would expect that the effect would be thrilling, in the larger emotional sense of that word.

Unlike some reviewers, I'm not sure that this would be a good read-aloud choice, because it seems too old for a kid who is being read to. To me it seems more like a book that an advanced independent reader could sink her teeth into at her own pace, and under her own control, with resulting "grown-up" satisfaction. Of course, everyone's situation is different. One thing is sure though; after M. Poppins the zoo will seem a lot cooler.
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on 30 October 2012
I bought this on Kindle, on impulse really, to see how the book compared with the musical and the film, which PL Travers supposedly disliked so much that she refused to give Disney the rights to a sequel. Given that, I was surprised at how faithful the film is. Obviously there are variations in the plot, but the feel is quite similar, and if anything the film had a greater sense of continuity compared to the episodic style of the book, and the different strands in the film make more narrative sense and feel more cohesive.

Mary Poppins is a little more severe in the novel, but otherwise the characters are more or less the same. The novel is an entertaining children's book, told with considerable imagination, but it is simply a children's book. It has charm but (naturally) is dated and rather contrived. Well worth a look though for those who want to see the origins of a classic film.
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on 2 June 2013
Every child should read this. I'm middle aged and have never read the original story - only know it from the musicals. This book is so much better. Recommend this for story time in schools and at home. Arrived very quickly too.
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(Note: This review is of the 1981 U.S. paperback edition published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt)

"'Just look at you!' said Mary Poppins to herself, particularly noticing (in the shop window's reflection) how nice her new gloves with the fur tops looked ... And having examined the reflection of the gloves she went carefully over her whole person ‒ coat, hat, scarf, and shoes, with herself inside ... But the winter afternoons she knew were short, and they had to be home by tea-time. So with a sigh she wrenched herself away from the glorious reflection." ‒ from MARY POPPINS

"And another of (the birds) mistook Mary Poppin's new hat for a rose garden and pecked off a flower ...'You ought to be in a pie ‒ that's where you ought to be,' said Mary Poppins to him angrily." ‒ from MARY POPPINS

"All day long Mary Poppins had been in a hurry, and when she was in a hurry she was always cross. Everything Jane did was bad, everything Michael did was worse. She even snapped at the Twins. Jane and Michael kept out of her way as much as possible, for they knew there were times when it was better not to be seen or heard by Mary Poppins." ‒ from MARY POPPINS

Anyone having ever seen Disney's Mary Poppins [DVD] (1964) and the recently released SAVING MR. BANKS cannot perhaps but be compelled to read the original story by P.L. Travers to make the comparison between the print version and the cinematic one. They are surprisingly different, and you'll never view the latter in the same way again. Perhaps only 15% of the material in the book is recognizably represented on the Big Screen, and, in the former, the elder Banks and Bert play parts that are positively miniscule. Most notably, the text Mary Poppins is both vain and tetchy; no lovable Julie Andrews brandishing a spoonful of sugar here.

Walt Disney obviously cherry-picked the original and then embellished to make HIS creation appeal to an audience used to his light-hearted, musical animation format. I can understand why Travers might have been displeased with the transformation.

Any reader who is as struck by the results of the comparison as I was may have to be reminded that Travers's MARY POPPINS remains the magical work that enthralled both young and old in a time when there weren't the distractions of smart phones and tablet computers (much less television). Awarding it five stars comes in recognition of that fact if nothing else. It's a masterpiece of whimsy.

One of the more interesting aspects of this edition (published post-1981) is the revision to the chapter entitled "Bad Tuesday" in which Mary takes her young charges on a tour of the four points of the compass using a magic compass. In the 1934 version, they meet an American Indian, an Eskimo, a sub-Saharan African, and an ethnic Chinese. By 1981 this was considered too simplistic, and the author was persuaded to change to a dolphin, a macaw, a polar bear, and a panda. Perhaps the criticism Travers faced was an embryonic manifestation of political correctness. Oh, puhleeze! God save us from rampant PC when it comes to the literary classics of any genre!
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on 18 February 2014
After seeing the film Saving Mr Banks, I wanted to read an early edition of the Mary Poppins book to see the difference between book and film. Really enjoyed the book. One to keep.
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on 12 January 2016
The film is a travesty on this exquisite book. Mary Poppins was no Julie Andrews, as readers well know. She was possibly able to be compared to Imogene Coca, if we want a more accurate visual before buying this. Wit, wonderful writing and for sure a fore ever classic, do your self a favor and buy this and then read it aloud to your children. They will remember you as long as memory lasts for the time you spent with them and a real delight.
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