Book Review – Mary Poppins

Miss Two is absolutely crazy about Mary Poppins and has been for months.  Whenever it’s rainy or too hot to play outside it’s my standby sanity saver.  Sometimes she will sit and watch the whole thing, but mostly she just likes sit through her favourite bits, the songs and dancing, the scene with ‘Cook singing’, the bits where the house shakes from Admiral Boom’s booms and the animated section.  She can sing the words to most of the songs and knows half the lines before they are spoken.  Phrases from the movie have become part of our own vernacular, I say ‘spit spot’ when I’m trying to get her moving a little quicker, Miss Two looks at herself in the mirror and says ‘cheeky’ in her best Mary Poppins voice and lot’s of things are known as ‘tricky’ thanks to Michael’s declaration “We’ll have to watch this one, she’s tricky.”

I usually take the opportunity to do some housework or cooking while she’s happy watching the film, but even without watching it, the songs get stuck in my head, I know what line is coming just like Miss Two and a find myself losing focus on what I’m doing to watch my favourite bits (the Sister Suffragettes song and the dance of the Chimney Sweeps especially).  I was saying this to another friend with a similarly aged daughter and she suggested I read the book (well books actually) and she loaned me her copy.  I’ve only read the first one so far and I must say it wasn’t really what I was expecting.

Rather than having a strong storyline throughout the book it was more like a collection of short stories, quite different to the film, but very suitable for young readers.  Some of the detail is also significantly different (for example there are four children in the book, Bert is much more of a peripheral character and there is nothing of the suffragettes movement) which I found a little disappointing to begin with.  The movie is just such a timeless classic and Dick van Dyke and Julie Andrews embody their respective characters so completely that picturing anything other than them in the roles is nearly impossible.  The Mary Poppins in the book is most vain, quite stern and cross and rather dark and mysterious, much more so than the film version with all of Disney’s mandatory sweetness.  However I did get used to the changes and enjoyed the book more as it went on and perhaps this more wicked version of Mary has a little more depth of character after all.  Some of the chapters are really quite funny, quirky and curious and I kept thinking ‘Oh Miss Two is going to love this bit…”

Some aspects of it reminded me of the sort of magical fantasy stories of Enid Blyton that I loved as a child (think the Wishing Chair and the Magic Faraway Tree).  Most memorable is the chapter where Michael finds Mary’s compass which allows them all to travel around the world in an instant and encounter all sorts of animals that naturally all know Mary Poppins personally and can, of course, talk.

As it is really a book for children it was quite short and easy to read, though it did take me a while to finish – mostly because I’ve been too busy to read, but also because I didn’t find myself itching to read it like I do with some books.  I think I would have enjoyed it more if I was reading it to my girls and seeing it through their eyes if you know what I mean.  It will definitely go on the shared reading list for the future (there are so many great books I can’t wait to introduce them to).

Miss Two’s pick from the library this week was Santa’s New Suit.  The title is quite self explanatory – Santa grows tired of wearing his traditional red suit so finds himself a quite splendid new one.  Sadly, the elves, reindeer and especially the children don’t share Santa’s enthusiasm for his new outfit and are not convinced that he is actually the real Santa.  And just like in real life, Mrs Claus comes to his rescue just in time for the big night.  I love the final page with Santa and Mrs Claus enjoying a beach holiday after Christmas, sporting matching swim suits made out of Santa’s new suit.  While it certainly isn’t a traditional story of Chirstmas, at least it doesn’t focus too much on the materialistic side either, there is no mention of presents at all.  It’s just a fun, simple and slightly quirky Santa story.

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