Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Mary Poppins book review

Greetings! A school librarian gave me four Mary Poppins books for my class (when I was teaching). Before I put them in my personal class library, I thought I should preview them first. I read through the first quickly and am in the middle of the second right now.

Parents have differing opinions on the Disney version of Mary Poppins. The movie has two splendid actors - Dick Van Dyke and Julie Andrews - and has some fabulous songs, like the very famous Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious! But in the movie, Mary Poppins seems eerily magical, and many have thought she is a witch. And then there is the Disney injection of early 20th century feminism. So what about the books?

In the books, Mary does all the crazy weird things she does in the movie, if not more. But I am not convinced, yet, that one must attribute these to witchcraft or underworld power. It is often hinted by others that Mary is unusual and unlike other people. But every time the children have an extraordinary adventure with her, she emphatically denies that anything happened. As of right now, I tend to think a family could read the Mary Poppins series and just call it a fun, wildly imaginative story.

Who is Mary Poppins? She is a nanny who is noted for being obsessed over her appearance, curt, and often angry. She is haughty and treats the children rudely. She gets angry when they talk about their adventures with her until they are forced to wonder if anything really happened. And yet, they still love her.

So Mary Poppins is not a role model (she's no Julie Andrews!). But who says that she should be? Michael and Jane don't aspire to be like her one day. They simply love her, faults and all. Her faults are in no way glorified. Just because she has "super powers" (if you could say that) doesn't mean she can't be very human.

There's no suffragette theme in the books, though some of the adventures are a bit animal activist. In book one, they go to a zoo at night where the animals have locked up people and are treating them like humans treat zoo animals. In book two, Mary Poppins helps a lark lock up its former owner in a bird cage so it can terrorize her.

My conclusion? I'm not sure. I would say give them a try and see what you think. I've been enjoying them, but I'm not part of the Mary Poppins Fan Club now. :)

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