She doesn’t obey the laws of nature. She owns things that haven’t been invented yet, and somehow she knows exactly where and when families need her help. These eccentricities define an English nanny who has a habit of arriving and leaving unexpectedly - but trust her when she says she’ll return.
Mary Poppins is a nanny who arrives by wind, kite and fireworks, but she leaves with no notice. She can slide up a banister, pull huge objects (like a folding bed) out of a seemingly empty bag, and float in the air. She has the power to go around the world using nothing but a compass and the ability to bring inanimate objects to life. Don’t ask her to explain how or why she does these things; she'll be insulted and deny everything you’ve just seen.
When Mary Poppins arrives at the Banks house, not knowing of her magical abilities, Mrs. Banks hires her on the spot. She starts as one among several staff working at Cherry-Tree Lane, but as time passes, Mary Poppins becomes the most-needed and best-loved worker there.
Even though Mary Poppins can be stern and demanding at times, the children find out quickly that having her as their nanny has its perks. While she's with the Banks, this “Perfectly Perfect” nanny brings order to the house, happiness to the parents, and adventure to the children. Under her direction, work is done efficiently and the house becomes peaceful.
Adventures happen mostly on outings. When she takes the children gingerbread shopping, they meet a woman with edible fingers. On a trip in the city, they encounter a woman who has the power to communicate with birds. While visiting a relative of Mary Poppins, the children discover that laughter can result in weightlessness.
Mary Poppins seems to be happy at the Banks house, but she never stays for long. In each of the three books in this boxed set, Mary Poppins leaves as mysteriously as she arrived. Although no one is happy when she leaves - and chaos ensues when she is gone - the Banks family always welcomes her into their lives when she comes back to town.
Most children would agree that it would be fun to have Mary Poppins as a nanny. When the Banks children are with her, they meet extraordinary people and have the most incredible adventures. Not only can they experience magic when she is near, but she keeps them safe, keeps them entertained and makes them feel loved. Memorable as their adventures may be, the children have to rely on each other’s recollections and the few clues left behind if they want to talk about and confirm what they’ve experienced with Mary Poppins, because she pretends she doesn’t believe them - and young readers know about not being believed by adults.
Mary Poppins was originally published in 1934, the first of eight books in the series, followed by Mary Poppins Comes Back and Mary Poppins Opens the Door. Harcourt has released the first three books in the series as a boxed set. Each book is eight to twelve chapters long and contains between twenty-six and forty-three black and white illustrations by Mary Shepard (and by Mary Shepard and Agnes Sims in the third book). Each book featuresa new relative, old favorites (such as the Admiral and Mrs. Corry), and in the third book, a new sibling.
Mary Poppins herself doesn’t change much from book to book. She still looks in every reflection she can, she still loves to wear dressy clothes, and she is still sniffing, but her visits are never predictable and her day-to-day life always includes an adventure.
Mary Poppins holds all the magic that books such as Alice in Wonderland and The Wizard of Oz do. This series is highly recommended.
Born in Australia, P.L. Travers (1899-1996) is known for her Mary Poppins books, but she also wrote books for adults and worked as a lecturer, reviewer, and drama critic. She died in London.
Mary Shepard was the daughter of the famous Winnie the Pooh illustrator E.H. Shepard. After finishing her schooling at the Slade School of Art, she started illustrating for P.L. Travers. Born in 1909, Shepard died in 2000.