by P.L. Travers, first published 1935
“It was one of those mornings when everything looks neat and bright and shiny, as though the world had been tidied up over night.”
If the way that your children know about Mary Poppins is through the Disney movie, that’s certainly a good start. However, if it’s the ONLY way they know Mary, then a whole world of wonder is missing… and lays at their feet. If they have seen the movie, then I recommend simply starting with this, the second book of the Mary Poppins series of children’s books.
Within the first few pages of this delightfully written book, the magic captures you. The writing is brisk and clear. The images that children form, without the help of a movie, make the book come alive in children’s imagination. What does the world look like when it has been tidied up over night? Let the children imagine.
There are two things that make P. L. Traver’s series of Mary Poppins books perfect for children. The first is that the magic exists throughout, but the children are left, along with the main characters, trying to know, is it real? And that’s how magic should be… because it is real, and it is not real, and it is both!
The other glorious reason for the children to be exposed to the Mary Poppins books is that quite subtly, the author Travers weaves in some pretty profound philosophical considerations, like planting a seed in the children’s consciousness. For example, in this book, when the new baby is born, she can remember where she came from… that she was one with the ocean, the universe. And then we watch, as the bird predicts, what happens to the baby… which alas happens to all of us. One day, the baby says to the bird, “I’m trying to remember something….” and we are hoping it is her cosmic oneness. At last she says, “Oh yes, isn’t there a biscuit on that window?” And the bird sadly realizes she’s just like all the others. It’s sad but wonderful at the same time. A hint to the readers that we once knew who we really were. But a hint with such a light hand that the children just take it in with wonder, and let it stir in their consciousness.
The other Mary Poppins books are equally wonderful, and I may not review them all here. But do read them. (Mary Poppins Opens the Door, and Mary Poppins in the Park). This is a read-aloud book for 5-7 year olds, and then, 8-12, they can just enjoy it one their own. Since there’s both a boy and girl protaganist, boys and girls will have an equal chance to identify with a character and make the story their own. Three Cheers to Mary!