When adults forget their childhood pals, daydreamers make foolish wishes and the wind blows unusually strong, it always leads to something quite out of the ordinary -- that is, whenever Mary Poppins is around.
In this, the final Mary Poppins book that P.L. Travers gave us before her death at age 90, we share the five Banks' childrens' adventures. Besides Jane and Michael, who were in the classic Disney movie, there are also toddler twins John and Barbara and infant Annabel.
A big departure from the Disney flick is Mary Poppins herself. Here, she is not the smiling, syrupy sweet nanny that young Julie Andrews portrayed; rather, the book's title character is strict, stern, often sarcastic and very taken with herself. Her strong personality makes her a unique storybook character and readers will find this Mary Poppins more of an enigma. Which, frankly, makes for better stories.
Everything in this book is G-rated but not preachy. Travers gives her young readers many fascinating, but never frightening, fantasy situations. Or are they real? Jane and Michael can never quite tell. The lines between what's real and what's not always blur around Mary Poppins.
This book is a series of unrelated chapters, self-contained stories, all dealing with the same main characters. Nothing is ever as it seems in the nursery of No. 17 Cherry Tree Lane -- or in the nearby park.
On a hot summer's day, Mary Poppins tells the children a tale of a hobo who was an angel in disguise, shedding his rags and growing wings as he flies away.
In another chapter, Michael, upset that he's caught a cold, finds that some days when everything seems to be going all right, it's actually going all wrong. He's taught a valuable lesson on a planet full of cats.
Later in the book, the children find messages on falling leaves. And witness a delightful, but not frightening, Halloween shadow dance in the park.
The nanny's magical cousin, Mr. Mo, is introduced. Jane finds the little toy figures she's created and destroyed do have lives of their own.
Around Mary Poppins, adults -- including favorites such as Admiral Boom, Miss Lark and her two dogs Andrew and Willoughby, the Bird Woman and Bert -- are caught off balance. Zookeepers, policemen and taxi drivers react to a flurry of frenzied events. Characters pop out of storybooks, out of Jane's mind, and off ceramic bookends. Lions and unicorns and even Indian chiefs prance through the park.
We are taken to worlds that exist between the blades of grass in the lawn, and up in the sky, to where felines and children disappear. There are traffic snarls, wedding breakfasts and birthday parties. And through it all, stalks Mary Poppins, with not a hair out of place. In very short order, characters get what they deserve, if not what they expect, and things are set right.
How does she do it? No one knows. Mary Poppins, you see, never, ever explains. But, she always entertains. Have some fun in the park with this magical nanny.