Mary Poppins by PL Travers

PL Travers
Mary Poppins

I can't believe I've never read the Mary Poppins book before. I had forgotten it was a book, to be honest, I just always think of it as the wonderful Julie Andrews film and the theatre production I was lucky enough to see on holiday in New York several years ago. I saw this book in a charity shop though, so felt I had to read it. However, all I could see in my head when I began to read the book were the scenes from the film, and the book is so different from the film that it kept tripping me up! I kind of wish I could read this with fresh eyes, having never seen the film.

Mary Poppins by PL Travers available on Amazon
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I can’t believe I’ve never read the Mary Poppins book before. I had forgotten it was a book, to be honest, I just always think of it as the wonderful Julie Andrews film and the theatre production I was lucky enough to see on holiday in New York several years ago. I saw this book in a charity shop though, so felt I had to read it. However, all I could see in my head when I began to read the book were the scenes from the film, and the book is so different from the film that it kept tripping me up! I kind of wish I could read this with fresh eyes, having never seen the film.

Jane and Michael observe the wind blowing Mary Poppins, their new nanny, to their door, and they watch fascinated as she slides up the bannisters! Her carpet bag looks empty but she pulls out many articles from it, including a folding armchair and a campbed with blankets already on it! And the medicine she gives them changes to different delicious flavours for each person. I love these amazingly clever fresh ideas, so many lovely lovely scenes. I do feel, however, that there isn’t as much description of these scenes as there are in Mary Norton’s or E Nesbitt’s books which I’ve read recently, no build up of anticipation as the children wonder what Mary is doing and how she’s doing it and what is going to happen, it’s more the basic fact of her doing it, which is a shame as the anticipation and description makes a scene more magical, and these really are such wonderful fresh fun ideas that it makes me wish the author could have made more of them, I can’t help wishing this book could have been written by Norton or Nesbitt. I wonder if this is perhaps why I keep imagining the scenes as they are in the film and theatre, rather than creating fresh scenes in my mind from the book and being totally absorbed by the book, because the full description isn’t there in the book for me to picture it in my own mind. I can thoroughly appreciate though why it’s been made into film and theatre show, as these are such wonderful ideas that are crying out to be developed further. 

Michael realises you can’t look at Mary Poppins and disobey her. But he is already, after just a few hours, begging for assurance that she won’t leave them. And of course, Mary says she’ll stay until the wind changes. I find it interesting that Mary shows the children no affection and is quite stern with them but they still crave her to stay, obviously the magic is a fascinating attraction for the children but I wonder if it is the structure and order that she brings to their lives that they also crave. I also find it interesting how Mary herself is described, obviously not in-depth as there are no in-depth descriptions as I have already lamented (!), but she is described as ‘very vain’ and easily offended and that no-one ever knows what she feels, as ‘Mary Poppins never told anything’, she does however show kindness for Bert’s feelings in concealing her disappointment that he hasn’t enough money to take her to tea as she is obviously aware that him seeing her disappointment would hurt his pride further, and we know she is very proud of her umbrella with the parrot’s head handle and likes to show this off. 

Mary goes to Bert (Herbert Alfred), the match-seller and pavement picture drawer, expecting to be taken out to tea as it is her afternoon off. I love this whole scene with Bert, it is lovely to see them happy together and them so considerate of each other and delighted in each other, and to see a softer side of Mary. I think the magic of them going inside the pavement drawing to another world seems to be of Bert’s making rather than of Mary’s though, it is his suggestion and he seems to action it, so the magic seems to his rather than hers. I wonder though if they really go inside the picture or is it actually just him encouraging her to imagine it, showing that you’re not hindered by lack of money or opportunities so long as you have imagination, and as Mary says ‘everybody’s got a Fairyland of their own’. Mary herself seems surprised by it all. They are dressed in fine clothes, have an afternoon tea consisting of whelks (!) and raspberry jam cakes and tea to drink, all with no bill to pay. They sit on horses on a Merry-Go-Round, and ride to Yarmouth and back. The way out from and back to their real lives is through a large white doorway that looks as if it is made of chalk lines. I love the wonderful imaginative ideas! 

Mary and Jane and Michael go to visit Mary’s uncle, Mr Albert Wigg. I am interested again in the delicious-sounding spread laid on for them, consisting of bread and butter, crumpets, coconut cakes, and a large plum cake with pink icing, plus tea to drink. Uncle Albert is sat up in the air towards the ceiling, he explains that when his birthday falls on a Friday, as it does today, and he laughs, which he does very often, then he gets so filled with laughing gas that he floats, and he can’t get down until he thinks of something serious or sad, or when his birthday ends at midnight! I just love these wonderful creative ideas! Jane and Michael begin laughing at how comical Uncle Albert looks, bouncing in the air like a balloon and clutching at things near the ceiling, and they also then float to the ceiling. I’m pleased that this scene is actually described more fully than the other chapters. Mary Poppins is extremely disapproving of all this. The children appeal to Mary to laugh so she can join them, Uncle Albert says she doesn’t need to laugh and that she can come up if she wants to without laughing and that she knows it, and he looks ‘mysteriously and secretly’ at Mary. I like that her family knows about her magical skills and are complicit in them. Mary joins them, going straight upwards. She then seems to summon the tea table up too, though doing this without any apparent order or gesture or showing that she is doing it and ‘to this day, Jane and Michael cannot be sure of what happened’ although Uncle Albert praises Mary afterwards which implies she did arrange it. I’m intrigued that she doesn’t boast about this magical ability but almost does it slyly. Uncle Albert’s housekeeper comes in the room with more hot water for the tea, and is shocked to see them all up by the ceiling, she tells them they are undignified and she has more respect for herself than they do for themselves, she then rises upwards with the tray of hot water, completely against her will and almost weeping with distress. Mary thanks her. Hmmm, so this implies that Mary caused this to happen, perhaps I wonder because the housekeeper dared to question Mary’s dignity and respectability. Uncle Albert gently admonishes Mary, saying she shouldn’t do it and the housekeeper will never get over it. Mary says shortly afterwards that it is time to go home, and this sad thought brings the children and Uncle Albert to the ground. When the children mention the tea party on the ceiling afterwards, Mary looks shocked and implies it never happened, and they are puzzled and begin to doubt their memories.

I’m intrigued by the use of leading capital letters in the book. I presume it sometimes denotes the emphasis that Mary puts on words, such as threatening they will go ‘Back Home’ if there are any more questions from the children, but then people and places seem to receive a leading capital letter too where I wouldn’t expect to see one, such as with ‘the Waiter’ and ‘the Policeman’, and ‘at the Tobacconist’s Shop’ and ‘the Bus’. And in the country picture where Mary and Bert have afternoon tea, the waiter uses a leading capital for the words ‘it was in the Background’ and for ‘we close at Seven’, why is this, I wonder.  

Oooh, I love love love the chapter with Andrew the dog!! I think this is Mary’s best magical skill, to be able to communicate with Andrew and understand his barks, and makes me wonder how I have owned several dogs and yet never thought to call any of them Andrew, or indeed Willoughby, these now just seem naturally perfect names for dogs! Andrew is owned by Miss Lark, who spoils him and treats him more like a child than a dog. Hmmm, personally I can’t see anything wrong with that! Andrew sleeps on a silk pillow in Miss Lark’s room under a fur rug, has cream and oysters and chicken breast and scrambled eggs with asparagus for his meals, is taken to the hairdressers (or ‘Hairdressers’ with a leading capital letter again, for some reason), and wears overcoats with different coloured checks and stripes, and even two pairs of boots for his four legs. However, Andrew is very bored with his life, and makes friends with the common dogs, particularly one who is half Airedale and half Retriever, and is (I love this phrase, tee hee) ‘the worst half of both’, and who brings Andrew all the gossip from town. One day, Mary and the four Banks children are in the park and Andrew runs past on his own rather than with Miss Lark as usual, he yaps at Mary and she answers him giving him directions and a brief description of the house Andrew seems to be asking about and a guidance about when the relevant person (or dog?) is usually home. Mary refuses to tell Jane and Michael what Andrew was saying. Later they see Andrew and the stray dog walking up to Miss Lark’s together, Andrew barks at Miss Lark and Mary translates saying Andrew is stating that his friend Willoughby must now live with him in Miss Lark’s house and sleep on a silk cushion in Miss Lark’s room, but that they will never wear overcoats or go to the hairdressers, otherwise they will both go and live elsewhere and never come back. Miss Lark reluctantly agrees. Hmmm, I know I am taking this book far too literally, especially this chapter, but I want to know where and why Andrew was running to and asking directions from Mary towards, was it to Willoughby’s house and if so was this because he knew Willoughby was in trouble and needed rescuing, or was it someone else’s house Andrew was going to and he met Willoughby there or on the way back, or had Andrew just reached the end of his tether and went to fetch Willoughby to join him and there was no drama or rush? Did Willoughby have a home and a name before, or was he a waif and stray as Miss Lark called him, if this was the case then whose house was Andrew going to and which dog’s idea was it for Willoughby to live with Andrew?

Jane and Michael see a cow walking down Cherry Tree Lane looking into gardens. Mary says she recognises the cow and it was a friend of her mother’s. I’m very intrigued that we have Mary’s mother mentioned. Mary says the cow had a content and routine life and was happy with this, but one night a star fell from the sky onto her horn and she couldn’t stop dancing and after seven days of dancing she decided to go to the King for advice, he failed to get the star from her horn so suggested she jump over the moon, she did this and the star fell off and her dancing stopped. She was relieved at first but then became discontent with her routine life and missed the feeling of dancing, which she remembered as a pleasant and happy feeling, ‘as if laughter were running up and down inside me’. She went to Mary’s mother for advice who told her that many stars fall out of the sky every night but are unlikely to fall in the exact same place so the cow must go and look for another star, which is what she is doing when the children see her looking into gardens. 

Michael wakes up with a ‘curious feeling inside him’ and knows he is going to be naughty that day, he proceeds to do so in many ways such as refusing to get out of bed when told, kicking the bannisters with his feet knowing it will wake everyone, knocking the water jug out of the maid’s hands, kicking the cook, tying Andrew’s tail to the fence with a piece of string, pushing the twins and pulling Jane’s hair. On a walk with Mary in the park, Mary tells him to pick up something shiny on the ground, he does and it is a compass. Mary says it is hers as she saw it first and it is to go around the world with. She turns the compass and says ‘north’ and they are suddenly in a cold windy place full of ice and snow, a polar bear appears and welcomes Mary, obviously knowing her, he offers them a snack of a herring, Mary says they can’t stay but says she will come back again for the chat and gossip that the polar bear requests. She then says ‘south’ and they are suddenly in a warm jungle, a hyacinth macaw appears and again obviously knows Mary and asks her to sit on his eggs as his wife is away and he wants some sleep, he offers them a snack of bananas. Mary says they can’t stay and says ‘east’ and they are suddenly in a forest of bamboo trees, a sleepy panda bear appears who obviously knows Mary, he says she should have let him know she was coming and he then would have stayed awake, he offers them a snack of bamboo shoots and says he will make a home of leaves and bamboo shoots for them. Mary says they can’t stay and flicks the compass and they head west and suddenly find themselves on a long white shore, a dolphin and its youngster appear, Mary calls the dolphin Amelia. Amelia offers them cockles and mussels and seaweed to eat. They suddenly return to the park. I find it interesting that they are offered food at all the places they visit, I guess this is a welcoming gesture but the book does refer to food quite a lot. Michael is still naughty that evening and when he is sent early to bed he spots the compass on a shelf and climbs on a chair to take it, he decides to go around the world thinking that will show everyone, that they will never find him and it will serve them right, but when he says ‘north, south, east, west’ the four creatures from earlier all approach him in a menacing and angry manner. He screams in terror for Mary, and feels himself held in a warm and soft embrace and carried along, he opens his eyes to find himself wrapped in a blanket and in his own bed feeling peaceful and happy and kind and generous and lucky to be alive. I find interesting the macaw’s line of ‘why should we spend our time sitting (on the eggs) when you could do it as well’, and Mary’s response of ‘Better, you mean!’, is this a reference that parents should be bringing up their own children rather than employing someone else to do it, as with the Banks children. I also find it  interesting that when Michael is scared, he calls for Mary rather than his mother.

Mr Banks suggests that the children join him at his workplace for tea and shortbread fingers if the weather stays fine (more food!), however the children are more excited that going to their father’s office in the city means they get to see The Bird Woman on the steps of St Paul’s Cathedral. I can’t read the Bird Woman chapter without humming the song from the film! I was also puzzled at the reference to Sir Christopher Wren not being related to Jenny Wren, is this Jenny Wren from Dickens’ Our Mutual Friend? Hmmm, or when I google I see there is a nursery rhyme about Jenny Wren and Robin Redbreast so it’s probably this that is being referred to. The only words The Bird Woman says are ‘Feed the birds’ and ‘Tuppence a bag’ when she sells her bags of breadcrumbs to people passing by, and even when Jane and Michael ask her questions she doesn’t say anything else. The children buy a bag of food and feed the pigeons and doves, although Mary dismissively calls all the birds ‘sparrers’, and the birds fly around The Bird Woman’s head when they’ve finished the food.

Mary has taken Jane and Michael and the twins with her to do the grocery shopping. I found it quite comical seeing Mary interact with the shopkeepers, I can definitely see that she is quick to take offence at relatively harmless things they say, and is vain, frequently looking at the reflection of herself in her new shoes. I find it intriguing thinking about her character really, as she’s not motherly and gentle particularly, instead she is quite stern and impatient and scornful and sharp and the children know to tread cautiously around her. I know this is set in a different time but I can’t help being a little disappointed in her character failings and her seeming lack of nurture. I do wonder whether if she didn’t have the magic, then would she have been liked at all. They go to buy gingerbread but Mary takes them to a different shop than the one they’re used to, this shop looks very small and dark from outside, there are rows and rows of gingerbread inside, with a gilt star on each one. Fannie and Annie come to serve them, they are kind but nervous, they are also extremely large people. Their mother, Mrs Corry, is very small and old, and very sharp and critical of her daughters. She obviously knows Mary well, and she makes reference to people she had spoken to long ago, such as Alfred the Great, as if she was there at the time, she even says she was alive at the time the world was being made. I wonder if she is supposed to represent some mythical or religious figure. She also has fingers which are sweets, which she breaks off and which then grow again into a different sweet. Eeeek, quite a gruesome thought really! I feel Mrs Corry is also a bully to her two daughters, inconsistent in her demands and not letting them speak to explain and mocking them and taking pleasure in upsetting them, she really doesn’t seem nice and yet is very kind to the children. When the children buy the gingerbread, Mrs Corry asks them to stick the money onto her coat with the other money stuck there. She then asks the children where they will hide the gilt stars from the top of the gingerbread, and they tell her where. When they look back at the shop after exiting, it has disappeared. Later that night they are awoken by Mary sneaking into their room to take the gilt stars from their hiding places, they hear whispering outside the house and see Mary and Mrs Corry and her daughters out there who then proceed to go up the hill at the end of the street, the daughters set up some ladders and Mary and Mrs Corry climb them with a pail of glue and paintbrushes, and paint the gilt stars onto the sky and they then twinkle. Jane asks Michael if the stars are gold paper, or if the gold paper pieces are stars.

I like the chapter of the twins, John and Barbara, partly because of the magic of it all, but partly because of the cheeky starling, or ‘Starling’ with a leading capital letter as it is in the book. I also wonder, as this chapter is all about being able to hear and understand the talk of creatures when you’re under the age of one but then not when you’re older, if that is the reason for things to have a leading capital letter, because they actually have an identity and are proper characters in the book, although then I see that isn’t really consistent as in this chapter the Starling and the Wind talk and both have leading capitals, but the sunlight talks and that doesn’t have a leading capital. I loved the starling insisting his ‘roaring and screaming and shouting’ that Mary accuses him of doing all day long and half the night, is actually ‘consultations, discussions, arguments, bargaining… and quiet conversation’, and him teasing Mary saying she’s not special in looks and that one of his day-old chicks is more handsome, and later when he ‘puts his wings on his hips and roared with mirth’, and I love too that he goes away on a holiday to Bournemouth. The babies can hear and understand what the starling and the sunlight and the wind and the stars and the trees are saying, as can Mary, and those things can all hear and understand what the babies are saying too. I find this such a lovely magical comforting thought. I loved the babies explaining the gentle tricks they play on ‘Grown-ups’, such as putting their foot in their mouth or pulling off their socks in order to amuse the grown-ups as they are so simple and so easily amused. Mary tells the babies that Jane and Michael used to be able to hear and understand things talk too, but that they lost this as they got older and the babies will lose it too, which they insist they will not and are greatly upset at the thought of. The starling explains that the only one who hasn’t lost this after the age of one is Mary and that she is the ‘Great Exception’. Hmm, I wonder if this is the secret to Mary’s ability to do magical things, because she has always kept the magical extraordinary abilities of a baby. And after the twins’ first birthday, they indeed can no longer understand the language of things as they used to, the starling comes to speak with them and is ignored, and he is quite upset at this and brushes a tear from his eye, though he denies this to Mary.

Mary is her typical stern and bullying self at the start of the next chapter. I again find it difficult to like her. Jane and Michael are keeping out of Mary’s way as much as they can and Michael wishes they could be invisible. Mary has told Michael that the sight of him was more than any self-respecting person could be expected to stand. Omg, I’m guessing this was quite usual treatment for children of this time but I can’t help being a bit shocked by it, though that makes me wonder if I just had a pampered modern childhood (although what’s wrong with that, really!). Michael wonders out loud what happens at the zoo at night when all the visitors have gone home. Mary overhears this. I wonder, as this whole chapter is then about what happens at the zoo at night, did Mary choose this adventure because Michael voiced it, or was it already planned to happen that day, being Mary’s birthday, and Michael had perhaps heard the word zoo mentioned by Mary that day and this was what put this question in his mind, if however it all happened because Michael voiced this thought, then that would seem to show great kindness on Mary’s part. Hmmm, could great kindness from her be possible, I wonder. I also find it intriguing who calls the children from their beds and leads them to the zoo, surely this can only be Mary, so again is she showing great kindness here, or if it’s not Mary, then who can it be. I like Mary’s use of the words ‘spit-spot’, as I remember this fondly from the film. It seems that when Mary’s birthday falls on a full moon, then special magical things happen. Hmmm, her uncle has the special magical gift of floating on air when his birthday falls on a Friday, so obviously there is a theme of birthdays being special and being extra special when they fall on certain days. On this day, the animals at the zoo host a party for Mary, they all treat each other with great friendliness, even ones who usually hunt each other. People are in the cages, including Admiral Boom from Cherry Tree Lane, and others who have not exited by the time the gates were shut for the evening, while the animals roam free, and animals who usually carry people or perform for people are watching or encouraging people to do these tasks instead. The Lord of the Jungle and of these animals is the Hamadryad Snake. I googled the name of this snake as I’d not heard of it before, and it is apparently the King Cobra. He is related to Mary, being her first cousin once removed on her mother’s side. I am fascinated by this relationship, and it being her mother again who seems to have had magical connections and presumably been the magical influence on Mary, I can’t remember a mention of her father, was he magical too, I wonder, how I’d love to know more of Mary’s life and family history. Mary seems quite in awe of the King Cobra, and he gives her one of his skins as a gift and engraves it with the words ‘A present from the zoo’, she is very touched by the gesture and has it made into a belt. I particularly liked the brown bear who guides Jane and Michael to the Snake House, putting an arm around them both and them being able to feel ‘his warm soft fur brushing against their bodies and hear the rumblings his voice made in his stomach as he talked’. 

I’m intrigued by the next story as it’s another one about stars, and I’m puzzled just what stars are supposed to be in this book as this is the third story about them and yet they’re different in all three stories, in the story with the cow stars can fall from the sky, in the story with Mrs Corry stars are stuck into the sky by her and Mary, and in this story one of the Seven Sisters stars comes to earth, so are the stars real or glittery paper, are they ‘people’ like Maia who can interact with humans, or are they inanimate like the one stuck in the cow’s horn. I am also intrigued by this chapter as we see a gentler side of Mary and see her seemingly for once overawed and impressed by magic as the children are frequently overawed and impressed by it, she doesn’t seem to have arranged this piece of magic herself and seems delighted at the surprise and rareness of it. Jane and Michael are Christmas shopping with Mary, they’re at the Largest Shop in the World (is this Hamleys Toy Shop, I wonder). Mary has been admiring her reflection in the shop window with her new gloves which she is very pleased with, while the children are admiring the toys in the window. I chuckled at the gifts the children bought for family members, with help from the store’s Father Christmas, which were all actually what they most wanted themselves. A child appears, skimpily dressed in what looks like a piece of the sky, she thanks them for waiting, saying she is late, though Mary seems as surprised to see her as the children are. The child says she is one of the Seven Sisters star constellation, she is called Maia, and says they are known as the Pleiades and their job is to make and store the spring rain. She says she has come to buy Christmas presents for her sisters, Electra, Taygete, Alcyone, Celaeno, Sterope, and Merope, and asks the children’s advice on suitable gifts. She says she has been watching the children from the skies and knows everything about them. Mary seems a little in awe of her, and at the end of the shopping expedition when Jane points out that Maia hasn’t bought anything for herself, Mary gives Maia her prized gloves. They smile at each other ‘as people smile who understand each other’. Mary seems quite in awe of Maia, and the children observe tears in her eyes when she watches Maia leave. Maia returns to the sky by walking up invisible stairs in the sky, this is seen by others so isn’t something the children later wonder is a dream that Mary denies has ever happened. I do find it interesting to see Mary in awe of someone else, not in charge of or as an equal to but almost impressed by the magicalness of that person. I have never known the names of the stars in the Seven Sisters constellation, I will have to check on wikipedia for information (non-magical information, of course) on this constellation.

The West Wind has come, which is the first day of spring. Hmmm, so what time of year is the start of the book with the East Wind, is this autumn or winter, Mr Banks says at the start of the book that there is a frost in the air, plus it is mentioned that the branches of the cherry trees in Cherry Tree lane are naked, so I’m thinking it must be winter rather than autumn, in which case Mary hasn’t stayed very long really, just one season. Jane and Michael suddenly remember what Mary said about only staying till the wind changes, but hope this won’t happen. I wonder if there is an old folk tale about the wind changing and this bringing about change, I seem to remember from my childhood that you were told that if you pulled a face and the wind changed then your face would stay like that, and I remember from Dickens’ Bleak House that Jarndyce associated anything worrying with the east wind, I will have to check wikipedia about beliefs about wind changing. Later, Mary gives Michael her compass, and the children notice that Mary doesn’t say a cross word all day, in the end they beg her to be cross saying it is not like her not to be cross. I think again, she really isn’t a nice person! At the end of the day she puts her hands lightly on each child’s head and tells them she will take the shoes downstairs to be cleaned and they are to behave themselves until she comes back. The children immediately feel they want to run after her but somehow feel unable to move. They wait, and then hear the front door slam and look out of the window and see Mary outside with her coat and carpet bag and umbrella, the wind is blowing strongly at her but she seems to smile at the wind ‘as though she and the wind understood each other’, she opens up her umbrella and the wind lifts her from the ground and carries her away. Jane and Michael grab the twins and bring them to the window so they can say goodbye too, and Mary disappears over the hill. Mrs Banks is angry that Mary has left them, she says Mary just told her ‘I’m going’, and the cook remarks on Mary’s airs and graces and that she kept herself to herself. Hmmm, so I’m thinking she was really only popular with the children, she wasn’t much liked by the rest of the household. Michael and Jane sob, and Michael wails ‘Mary Poppins is the only person I want in the world’. Jane finds a small parcel under her pillow, it is a picture of Mary painted by Bert with a note saying ‘au revoir’ which they find out means ‘to meet again’, so they then have hope they will see Mary again. Jane tucks Michael into bed ‘just as Mary Poppins used to do’. Awww, so can we take it that Mary has encouraged them to be more caring and kind to each other, with Jane tucking Michael into bed and also with the children thinking to take the twins to the window so they could also say goodbye to Mary. 

I’m beginning to wonder if every story has a moral/life lesson. The story with Bert could be a lesson to use your imagination, the story with Uncle Albert could be a lesson to laugh, and the story with Andrew could perhaps be a lesson to be considerate to animals. So what’s the life lesson with the cow and star story, hmmm, it’s a bit tougher to decide, maybe not to just be content with routine but to search for and embrace new things. The Michael being naughty story is a bit difficult too, could it be that children respond best to love and kindness. Hmmm, I’ve struggled with the life lesson for the Birdwoman chapter too, but I’ve started on this theme so feel obliged to continue even if it’s only just to satisfy myself! I wonder if the Birdwoman’s life lesson could be about noticing the individual, as the children notice the Birdwoman in the first place and then also notice the different colours and personalities of the doves and pigeons around her, classing some as a mother figure, some as an uncle figure, etc, whereas Mary makes no effort to look for individuals and just classes them all as ‘sparrers’. I struggled to find a life lesson for the Mrs Corry story too, although it doesn’t really matter as I’m only really amusing myself with this, but I wonder now looking back at this story if there’s a lesson on how contrary people can be and to not take people at face value and to bear in mind that people aren’t perfect and they make mistakes, as Mrs Corry is extremely kind to the children and obviously gives her own time to create stars in the sky (!) but is very unpleasant and unreasonable to her daughters. So what life lesson can I take from the chapter on John and Barbara learning they will lose the ability to understand the birds and trees and wind and sunlight after they turn one? Perhaps just allowing myself to believe this really happens and that babies can understand these things, and opening my mind to the chance (hope!) of that magic being real?! The moral/life lesson from the chapter of Mary’s birthday at the zoo is perhaps to remind us that we are all equal in the end and we should humbly remember this, and that the powerful animals, and indeed the all-powerful humans, are all in essence the same as the smaller creatures, ‘the same substance composes us’ as the King Cobra tells Jane and Michael, ‘we are all one, all moving to the same end’. Hmmm, the moral/life lesson of the Maia story, could this be that anyone can be touched and charmed by something special, even Mary who has seemingly done it all and seen it all and has great powers herself. And the final story, I guess, is perhaps about trying to deal with the sadness and pain of people leaving your life, and dealing with change and being self-sufficient and looking after others who may be struggling, and also having hope and not despairing.

I did enjoy the book, it was wonderful to be part of this magical world, although I was often surprised and distracted by how harsh Mary was. As I said, I can’t help comparing it to other children’s books about magical things and wondering if it could have been even more wonderful in Mary Norton’s or E Nesbit’s hands, written more descriptively and in more depth. But it is a wonderful book, and I’m tempted to go on and read the following four books in the series.

Mary Poppins by PL Travers available on Amazon
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