The first of P.L. Travers's novels about the magical nanny, Mary Poppins.
When Katie Nana, the much-tried nanny to the Banks family of 17 Cherry Tree Lane, finally storms out in a huff, the wind blows in Mary Poppins and her carpetbag. The Banks children find that Mary Poppins is stern, vain, and usually cross – but also has a touch of magic about her.
Mary Poppins comes back on the end of a kite string, stays with the Banks family for a while, and then disappears on a merry-go-round horse.
Source: Publisher's blurb
'While the Mary Poppins stories have been affectionately received as literature for children since they were first published in 1934, their Australian-born P. L. Travers maintained that she never intended this to be the case. Rather the stories reveal fairy tale as it pertains to those who have lost their childhood: "Grown-ups" (Travers Complete Collection 96) who wish to reconnect with the organically live experience of the child. This act of revisiting and revising one's childhood for the purpose of catharsis is a familiar one and a verifiable tool for the many writers wishing to both expunge haunting memories and at the same time reconnect with a world of unfettered insight and impulse. Confusing the boundaries between memory and fantasy, writers continue to reinvent scenes from their childhoods that enter the collective imagination and become popular legends. The magical worlds of Alice in Wonderland, Peter Pan's Never Land and Mary Poppins's Fairyland epitomise and inaugurate this reworking of childhood fantasies.' (Introduction)
This article investigates some possible terminology through an exploration of some of the twists and turns in the saga of Mary Poppins, and explores the explanatory potential of the horticultural metaphor of the rhizome.
'Talking-animal tales have conveyed anticruelty messages since the 18th-century beginnings of children's literature. Yet only in the modern period have animal characters become true subjects rather than objects of human neglect or benevolence. Modern fantasies reflect the shift from animal welfare to animal rights in 20th-century public discourse. This revolution in literary animal-human relations began with Lewis Carroll's Alice's Adventures in Wonderland and continued with the work of Kenneth Grahame, Hugh Lofting, P.L. Travers and E. B. White. Beginning with the ideas of literary theorist Mikhail Mikhailovich Bakhtin, this book examines ways in which animal characters gain an aura of authority through using language and then participate in reversals of power. The author provides a close reading of 10 acclaimed British and American children's fantasies or series published before 1975. Authors whose work has received little scholarly attention are also covered, including Robert Lawson, George Selden and Robert C. O'Brien.' (Publication summary)
'P. L. Travers's series about Mary Poppins and Hugh Lofting's about Doctor Dolittle are unified by the extraordinary beings whose names appear in each title. Although both sets of books exhibit carnivalesque qualities, their central figures engender quite different responses. Lofting's Doctor is a great but flawed human being and, as demonstrated in the last chapter, readers' reactions to him fluctuate over the course of the series. Travers's nanny is a figure of mythic proportions, a still point at the center of the whirling changes she instigates, and she is consistently beloved and admired by the books' characters and readers. Whereas Doctor Dolittle is unfailingly kind, he is also unworldly and occasionally buffoonish; he is clearly a figure of misrule. Mary Poppins, by contrast, though frequently rude, is a figure of great authority, yet she uses her powers to subvert the status quo as much as the Doctor does. Although Doctor Dolittle acquires facility in animal languages through dedicated study, Mary Poppins is able to talk with animals simply because she is the Great Exception" (Mary Poppins 140),' the one being who continues to understand in adulthood the language spoken by animals and all human infants. Readers of Travers's series recall that Mary Poppins, like the Doctor, does on occasion act as translator and arbitrator for individual animals. She also narrates stories to her child charges about animals, both real and mythic, and mediates between the children and wild animals they encounter on magical adventures. Although Travers turns the tables in true carnival fashion and engineers scenes where the powerless become empowered, her series is not so much concerned with the social-justice issues of human cruelty to animals as it is with the spiritual exploration of shared animal-human origins. Travers's messages on this subject remain unchanging throughout the series, unlike Lofting's shifting tone. The idea of the interconnectedness of all life that is highlighted in "Full Moon," a chapter set in the zoo that occurs during Mary Poppins's first visit with the Banks family, is equally emphasized during her last visit in a chapter entitled "High Tide," a companion piece set at the bottom of the sea.' (Publication abstract)