The Complete Mary Poppins: A Review

I have never been more excited to start reading a book than I was when Graeme surprised me with The Complete Mary Poppins collection by P.L. Travers in February. It is a hefty volume that comprises of all six original Mary Poppins tales: Mary Poppins, Mary Poppins Comes Back, Mary Poppins Opens the Door, Mary Poppins in the Park, Mary Poppins in Cherry Tree Lane, Mary Poppins and the House Next Door. The first three books are complete stories about the three visits Mary Poppins makes to the Banks children, while the final three books are additional stories of their adventures during those visits.

Throughout this series, P.L. Travers beautifully fashions a truly spellbinding world around a house that almost everyone has heard of – Number Seventeen Cherry Tree Lane. Mary Poppins arrives there on the gust of the East Wind and slides up the bannister. From this moment the world of both Michael and Jane Banks are irrevocably and magically turned upside down, quite literally. From travelling around the world in minutes with a magic compass, to communicating with animals, and taking afternoon tea on the ceiling with Uncle Andrew because he laughed too much; you will be utterly mesmerised by the adventures that take place within these pages.

The three main stories follow a clear structure: Mary Poppins arrives, she takes the children on fantastic adventures and leaves without warning, but not before she teaches all of the Banks children a thing or two about themselves and the world that they live in. You would think that this distinct structure would become predictable and monotonous but, I think it really enhances your experience of reading the books. It becomes comforting and familiar to the reader and allows you to connect with the safety and love that Mary Poppins builds around the children during her visits for a really unique read. The final three stories are wonderful little ‘extras’, that are perfect if, like the Banks children, you aren’t quite ready for Mary Poppin’s visits to end. Each book, really is more magical and thrilling than the next and it’s easy to see why they’re considered great children’s classics.

But, if you are expecting the Julie Andrews imagining of Mary Poppins from the 1964 Disney musical like I was, you will be disappointed. P.L. Travers Mary Poppins is vain, rude and irritable and you will probably detest her at first, but the children love her and it becomes easy to see why. Mary Poppins is unique and absorbing and you find yourself more and more infatuated with her, and the whole Banks clan as you progress further into the books.

Admittedly, these are children’s books and while I do wish that I had read them when I was still young and full of wonder, I really do think that they can be enjoyed by anyone of any age. The understandably outdated notions of gender roles and ideas about bringing up children are eclipsed by the charming and imaginative world that shines brighter than anything I have ever read before. Any book lovers collection would be incomplete without a copy of The Complete Mary Poppins sitting proudly within their collection.  

Overall rating – 5 out of 5

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