Prather’s Pick: The first ‘Mary Poppins’ book
This week’s book is intended for the young adult reader, but younger readers will enjoy having the book read to them. It’s “Mary Poppins,” written by P.L. Travers back in 1934, with two renewed copyrights, the most recent in 1981. The book was illustrated by Julia Sarda in 2013.
According to the brief biography in the book, Travers was a drama critic, travel essayist, lecturer, and author. The author wrote eight Mary Poppins books, included the most recent (1952) book, “Mary Poppins in the Park.” Travers, who wrote other children’s books and adult books, died in 1996.
This is a beautiful book. The cover is blue with some silver-like etchings of gates that are opened. The columns above the gates are designed with closed-up parasols, birds, kites, spoons and a bowl, and even a gingerman. An oval is cut in the center of the cover to form a frame for a picture of Mary Poppins, with a carpet bag in one hand and an opened parasol in the other. She walks around with several varieties of birds that fly around her.
When the cover page is opened, the reader finds a two-page illustration that reveals Mary Poppins, who seems to walk in the air, high above the city.
The book includes 12 chapters and 235 pages. It begins on Cherry Tree Lane, Number Seventeen, where the Banks family resides. The family is made up of Mr. and Mrs. Banks, the oldest child Jane, then Michael, and baby twins, John and Barbara. Mr. Banks makes money, cutting out pennies, shillings, half shillings, and threepenny-bits.
The family is helped out by Mrs. Brill, who cooks for them; Ellen, who “lays the table’; and Robertson Ay, who does jobs such as to cutting the lawn and polishing the shoes. Katie Nanna has just today left Number Seventeen and has not given any advance warning — not that the children particularly care.
So, Mr. Banks puts an advertisement in the newspaper for a nanny. It isn’t long — and I mean the same day — that a nanny lands at the front door. “Lands” is exactly what happens when a wind comes up, catches a woman, and throws her right at the front door. She’s is thin with large feet and hands, shiny black hair, and small blue eyes. Her name is Mary Poppins.
The children notice right away that this nanny is a little curious-acting. She follows Mrs. Banks up the stairs but not in the usual way. She slides up the banister. She says she will take the position, so she hangs her hat on a bedpost. Then, she starts taking items out of her empty carpet bag (the children notice) which includes a bottle and spoon. The instructions on the bottle’s label read, “One Tea-Spoon to be taken at Bed-time.”
At first, Michael argues about taking the liquid, but then, he finds it tastes like strawberry ice. Jane thinks it tastes like lime-juice cordial, and Mary Poppins thinks it tastes like rum punch. Even the twins like the liquid.
Then, it’s bedtime. Mary Poppins takes some nightgowns and a lot of stuff out of the carpet bag (even some dominoes) and a folding camp-bedstead with blankets and eiderdown. She sets the bed down between the twins’ cots, puts on her nightgown, and goes to bed.
The children already love Mary Poppins. They plead for her to never leave them. All she will say is, “I’ll stay until the wind changes.”
The children are in for a lot of adventures, and this is a wonderful book.
I found “Mary Poppins,” with new young adult titles, at the Craig branch of Moffat County Libraries. The hardcover edition costs $24.99.
Stories enrich our lives. We tell them, listen to them, read them, repeat them, write them, watch them on TV, enjoy them in theaters. Stories teach us, entertain us, make us laugh, ease our social situations, and cement our friendships.