Mary Poppins

Mary Poppins
Mary Poppins
The first four Mary Poppins books
Mary Poppins
Mary Poppins Comes Back
Mary Poppins Opens the Door

Mary Poppins in the Park
Mary Poppins From A to Z
Mary Poppins in the Kitchen
Mary Poppins in Cherry Tree Lane
Mary Poppins and the House Next Door
Author P. L. Travers
Illustrator Mary Shepard
Language English
Genre Children's literature
Publisher HarperCollins, London
Harcourt, Brace, New York
Published 19341988

Mary Poppins is a series of children's books written by P. L. Travers and originally illustrated by Mary Shepard. The books centre on a magical English nanny, Mary Poppins. She is blown by the East wind to Number Seventeen Cherry Tree Lane, London and into the Banks' household to care for their children. Encounters with chimney sweeps, shopkeepers and various adventures follow until Mary Poppins abruptly leaves, i.e., "pops-out". The adventures take place over a total of eight books. However, only the first three books feature Mary Poppins arriving and leaving. The later five books recount previously unrecorded adventures from her original three visits. As P.L. Travers explains in her introduction to Mary Poppins in the Park, "She cannot forever arrive and depart."

It is likely that P.L. Travers lived in Bowral, New South Wales when she originally came up with the character that became Mary Poppins.[1] To celebrate the 100th anniversary of P.L Travers living in Bowral, an attempt was made to break the world record for the world's largest umbrella mosaic on Bradman Oval, Bowral, at 2:06pm on 7 May 2011. The event was organised by the Southern Highlands Youth Arts Council.[2] The record was achieved, with 2115 people. [3] An aerial photograph was taken by helicopter.[1]

The books were adapted in 1964 into a musical Disney film starring Julie Andrews and Dick Van Dyke. In 2004, Disney Theatrical produced a stage musical adaptation in the West End theatre. The stage musical was transferred to Broadway in 2006. It is still running there to this day, to sold out crowds. It has been highly successful, as was the classic 1964 film.



Mary Poppins, published 1934

The first book introduces the Banks family, consisting of Mr. Banks and Mrs. Banks and their children Jane, Michael, and baby twins John and Barbara. When the children's nanny, Katie Nana, storms out in a huff, Mary Poppins arrives at their home, complete with her traveling carpetbag, blown in by a very strong wind. She accepts the job, and the children soon learn that their nanny, though she is stern, vain, and usually cross, has a magical touch that makes her wonderful. Among the things Jane and Michael experience are a tea party on a ceiling with Mr. Wigg, a trip around the world with a compass, the purchase of gingerbread stars from the extremely old Mrs. Corry, a meeting with the Bird Woman, a birthday party at the zoo among the animals, and a Christmas shopping trip with a star named Maia from the Pleiades cluster of the Taurus constellation. In the end, Mary Poppins is satisfied with the work she has done with the Banks family, and the West Wind carries her away.

Mary Poppins Comes Back, published 1935

Nothing has been right since Mary Poppins left Number Seventeen Cherry Tree Lane. One day, when Mrs. Banks sends the children out to the park, Michael flies his kite up into the clouds. Everyone is surprised when it comes down bringing Mary Poppins as a passenger, who returns to the Banks home and takes charge of the children once again. This time, Jane and Michael meet the fearsome Miss Andrew, experience an upside-down tea party, and visit a circus in the sky. As in Mary Poppins, Mary leaves at the end, but this time with a "return ticket, just in case" she needs to return.

Mary Poppins Opens the Door, published 1943

When Mary last left the Banks children in Cherry Tree Lane, she took a "return ticket, just in case." In the third book, she returns to the park in front of Cherry Tree Lane the way she came, falling with fireworks. Once again she takes up nanny duties in the Banks household and leads Jane, Michael, John, and Barbara on various adventures. This time, they visit her uncle Mr. Twigley, befriend a statue that has come to life, go riding on peppermint horses, and experience a garden party under the sea.

Mary Poppins in the Park, published 1952

This fourth book contains six adventures of the Banks children with Mary Poppins during their outings into the park along Cherry Tree Lane. Chronologically the events in this book occurred during the second or third book (Mary Poppins Comes Back and Mary Poppins Opens the Door respectively). Among the adventures they experience are a tea party with the people who live under the dandelions, a visit to cats on a different planet, and a Halloween dance party with their shadows.

Mary Poppins From A to Z, published 1962

Twenty-six vignettes — one for each letter of the alphabet — weave unexpected tales of Mary Poppins, the Banks children, and other characters from Travers's previous novels. Each vignette is filled with fun and unusual words that start with the featured letter.

Mary Poppins in the Kitchen, published 1975

Mary Poppins comes to the rescue when the Banks' family cook has to go on an unexpected leave, teaching the young Banks children the basics of cooking in the process. The book includes recipes.

Mary Poppins in Cherry Tree Lane, published 1982

Mary Poppins takes the Banks children on yet another memorable adventure, this time on the magical Midsummer's Eve. All kinds of strange things can happen, and even mythical figures can descend from the heavens. At the back of the book is a list of the herbs that are mentioned in the story, with their botanical, local and Latin names.

Mary Poppins and the House Next Door, published 1988

The residents of Cherry Tree Lane are distressed to learn that their beloved Number Eighteen, an empty house for which each tenant has created an imaginary, wished-for tenant, is about to be occupied by Mr. Banks's childhood governess, Miss Andrew — otherwise known as the Holy Terror. Her dreaded arrival brings a pleasant surprise as well, for Luti, a boy from the South Seas, has accompanied her as both servant and student. Delighted by the prospect of a new friend, Jane and Michael are frustrated by the restrictions that the hypochondriacal Miss Andrew has placed on Luti, who grows more and more homesick for his family and tropical surroundings. When the call in his heart to return home becomes more than he can bear, it is Mary Poppins who makes the trip possible by means of a visit to the Man in the Moon.


1964 film

Mary Poppins was made into a film based on the series of children's books by Walt Disney Productions in 1964. According to the 40th anniversary DVD release of the film in 2004, Walt Disney first attempted to purchase the film rights to Mary Poppins from P.L. Travers as early as 1938, but was rebuffed because Travers did not believe a film version of her books would do justice to her creation and did not want an animated cartoon based on it. Disney finally succeeded in 1961, although Travers demanded and got script approval rights.

The relationship between Travers and Disney is detailed in Mary Poppins She Wrote, a biography of Travers, by Valerie Lawson, published by Aurum Press in the United Kingdom. The biography is the basis for two documentaries on Travers, The Real Mary Poppins and The Shadow of Mary Poppins.

The process of planning the film and composing the songs took about two years. Songs in the film are by the Sherman Brothers. Mary Poppins is played by Julie Andrews. Disney cast Dick Van Dyke in the key supporting role of Bert. The Banks children were played by Karen Dotrice and Matthew Garber. Mr. and Mrs. Banks were played by David Tomlinson and Glynis Johns respectively. The film is rated G by the MPAA. The film features a mix of adventures and episodes taken from each of the existing novels, and new events, created for it. In notable differences from the original novels, the film does not include the characters John, Barbara or Annabel Banks, and has Mary Poppins herself characterized as noticeably kinder.

1983 film

In 1983, the story was adapted by the Soviet Union's Mosfilm studios into the Russian-language TV musical film Мэри Поппинс, до свидания (Mary Poppins, Goodbye), starring Natalya Andreychenko (acting) and Tatyana Voronina (singing) as Mary Poppins, Albert Filozov as George Banks and Oleg Tabakov as Miss Andrew.[4]

2004 musical

The musical 'Mary Poppins' opened in 2004 at the Prince Edward Theatre.

Main characters

Mary Poppins

Mary Poppins is the main character of the books, a magical nanny who sweeps into the Banks home of Cherry Tree Lane and takes charge of the Banks children. She never openly acknowledges her strange and magical powers, and feigns insult when one of the children refers to her previous adventures. She flies in on an umbrella, and departs when the children have learned enough lessons and promises to return whenever they need her. One theory is that she appears to be magical because she is a guardian angel who is sent by God to protect vulnerable children.[citation needed]

Mr. Banks

George Banks is Mary Poppins' employer. He works at the Bank in the City of London, and lives at 17 Cherry Tree Lane with his wife and their children. In the books he is rarely present, but is gruffly loving of his wife and children. In the film he has a more prominent role as a cross man preoccupied with work who wants order and largely ignores his children and wife, but later on his attitude changes for the better, as Bert convinces him that while he can focus on his life at the bank his whole life, his childrens childhood is passing him by. His role in the stage musical is similar to the film, but he has an additional back-story drawn from the original books, in which he was tormented by a cruel nanny during his childhood.

Mrs. Banks

Mrs. Winifred Banks is the wife of George Banks and mother of Jane and Michael. In the books she is the struggling mistress of the Banks household, and is easily intimidated by Mary, who treats her with thinly-veiled contempt. In the film she is a valiant and fervent suffragette and feminist, albeit one who is treated somewhat satirically. In the stage musical she is a former actress who is under constant pressure from her husband as she struggles to enter his social circle.

The Banks' children

In the books there are five Banks children — Jane, Michael, John, Barbara and Annabel. Jane and Michael are the eldest and go on most of the magical adventures with Mary Poppins. John and Barbara are toddler twins who only start going on adventures in the second book. Annabel is the youngest and joins the family midway through the second book. Only Jane and Michael appear in the film and stage musical.


Bert is Mary Poppins' love interest in the film. In the books, when the weather is fine, he draws life-like pictures on the pavement with chalk (and so is a screever), but when it rains he instead sells matches and is thus known as the Matchman. Mary sometimes goes on outings with Bert on her Second Tuesday off. In the film Bert is a combination of the Matchman and the Sweep and has a more prominent role in the children's adventures, including taking care of Mary's Uncle Albert. In the stage musical he acts as a narrator and far-away friend of Mary and the Banks children.

Miss Lark

Miss Lark lives next door to Number Seventeen Cherry Tree Lane. She is the owner of two dogs: Andrew and Willoughby. Originally she only had Andrew, who is pure-bred, but the mongrel Willoughby joined the family at Andrew's request. She constantly appears throughout the books and is usually appalled by the magical antics of Mary Poppins. She appears in the film and stage musical as a minor role.

Admiral Boom

Admiral Boom also lives along Cherry Tree Lane. He is a former Naval Officer, but now lives in a house shaped like a ship with his wife Mrs. Boom and his assistant Binnacle, who is a former pirate. Admiral Boom often appears in the Banks children's adventures, but he is never fazed by the unusual happenings that surround Mary Poppins. He is remarkable for his use of colourful sailor's language, although, as the books are intended for children, he never actually swears; his favourite interjection is Blast my gizzard! In the film he is a neighbour of the Banks family who fires his cannon to mark the time; this version of the Admiral is far less salty and more of a proper, "Shipshape and Bristol fashion" kind of sailor, insistent on order and punctuality.


Further reading

Mark Bostridge on Mary Poppins,

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