Parents' Guide to

Mary Poppins

By Barbara Schultz, Common Sense Media Reviewer

age 8+

Delightful tale of nanny who brings order, magic to family.

Book P.L. Travers Fantasy 1934
Mary Poppins Poster Image

A Lot or a Little?

What you will—and won't—find in this book.

Community Reviews

age 5+

Based on 2 parent reviews

age 5+

In a Rare Instance, The Movie is *Much* BetterThan The Book!

Two things to note: I have a degree in English and in reading and love books, as do my children; and we listened to the audiobook, which was unabridged. I grew up watching the Disney movie inspired by this book, but had never read it. My five year old son is quite sensitive when it comes to “scary parts” in movies, so we are limited in our movie choices. Mary Poppins seemed perfect for him and he agreed, loving it! Therefore, we decided to listen to the audiobook together. Sadly, this book is awful. First of all, unlike the movie—which features a story arc for both the children and their parents—this book has literally no plot. There is no growth on the part of the characters. It’s never clear why Mary Poppins arrived and unclear how she affected the family. The storylines we see in the movie, such as the father learning to appreciate joy and his family instead of work for work’s sake, are utterly absent. The characters are almost entirely two-dimensional. Mary Poppins is stern and vain. Michael is mostly petulant (the one story about the bird woman that he enjoys shows us a hint of a deeper person). Mrs. Banks is completely characterless. Mr. Banks yells and knows best. The Bad Tuesday chapter, in which Michael is grumpy and acts out all day, tells no reason for his temper. Although we’ve all had days like this, it’s not often we do incredibly malicious things like kick the kindly cook in the ankle and feel happy about it, nor is it likely that no one punished us or talked with us so we stopped at that point. Mary Poppins handles his anger is far less than a “practically perfect” way, and the journey they go on does nothing to teach him anything. My son and I had to talk a lot about this chapter and why what Michael did was not okay. My son said, “I don’t like this Mary Poppins very much.” I totally concur. Incredibly vain, mean to the kids, and lacking in any kind of basic kid-rearing skills, this character is a horrible dud! Save your reading time for the myriad of wonderful books out there and watch the movie instead, which is marvelous!
3 people found this helpful.
age 5+

This book has much more than the movie.

I was a little surprised at how different this book was from the movie especially after you learn how hard Disney courted her and her work... and I’m so glad that we picked it up. First of all, we enjoyed the incredible imagination of Ms. Landers, especially given the context in which she was writing. This book was surprising, creative, and silly and that is how we read each chapter. I think even the misses in this book are conversation starters to how the world has changed or is asking to change (fair treatment, listening to others, gaslighting). We loved the chapter on laughing gas and bad Tuesday... and the zoo (so amazing - why wasn't this on the movie?!?) they have given our family lots of talking points. Personally as a parent I’m super interested to read more about Ms. Landers and her thoughts behind Mary Poppins’ character development. There’s a lot here and yet for the kids, it’s just silly imagination.
1 person found this helpful.

Is It Any Good?

Our review:
Parents say (2 ):
Kids say (3 ):

MARY POPPINS, the classic children's novel that inspired the beloved Disney musical, is an absolute delight. Readers will notice that the filmmakers took considerable liberties with P.L. Travers' plot and characters, but the spirit and cleverness of Mary come through in both versions. Unique to the novel are Jane and Michael's twin siblings, babies John and Barbara. A chapter entirely devoted to the infants creates a fascinating perspective where babies have special wisdom. Mary Poppins' world is magical and fascinating, and full of life lessons told in strange and wonderful ways.

Book Details

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