Title: Mary Poppins.
Author: P. L. Travers.
Genre: Fiction, children's lit, YA, fantasy, philosophical fiction.
Publication Date: 1934.
Summary: From the moment Mary Poppins arrives at Number 17 Cherry-Tree Lane, everyday life at the Banks house is forever changed. It all starts when Mary Poppins is blown by the east wind onto the doorstep of the Banks house, 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.
My rating: 8/10.
♥ “No. It’s only the idiotic way they have of talking,” said John. “I don’t believe I’ll ever understand Grown-ups. They all seem so stupid. And even Jane and Michael are stupid sometimes.”
“Um,” agreed Barbara, thoughtfully pulling off her socks and putting them on again.
“For instance,” John went on, “they don’t understand a single thing we say. But, worse than that, they don’t understand what other things say. Why, only last Monday I heard Jane remark that she wished she knew what language the Wind spoke.”
“I know,” said Barbara. “It’s astonishing. And Michael always insists - haven’t you heard him? - that the Starling says ‘Wee-Twe-ee-ee!’ He seems not to know that the Starling says nothing of the kind, but speaks exactly the same language as we do. Of course, one doesn’t expect Mother and Father to know about it - they don’t know anything, though they are such darlings - but you’d think Jane and Michael would-”
“They did once,” said Mary Poppins, folding up one of Jane’s nightgowns.
“What?” said John and Barbara together in very surprised voices. “Really? You mean they understood the Starling and the Wind and-”
“And what the trees say and the language of the sunlight and the stars - of course they did! Once,” said Mary Poppins.
“But- but how is it that they’ve forgotten it all?” said John, wrinkling up his forehead and trying to understand.
“Aha!” said the Starling knowingly, looking up from the remains of his biscuit. “Wouldn’t you like to know?”
“Because they’ve grown older,” explained Mary Poppins. “Barbara, put on your socks at once, please.”
“That’s a silly reason,” said John, looking sternly at her.
“It’s the true one, then,” Mary Poppins said, tying Barbara’s socks firmly around her ankles.
“Well, it’s Jane and Michael who are silly,” John continued. “I know I shan’t forget when I get older.”
“Nor I,” said Barbara, contentedly sucking her finger.
“Yes, you will,” said Mary Poppins firmly.
The Twins sat up and looked at her.
“Huh!” said the Starling contemptuously. “Look at ‘em! They think they’re the World’s Wonders. Little miracles - I don’t think! Of course you’ll forget - same as Jane and Michael.”
“We won’t,” said the Twins, looking at the Starling as if they would like to murder him.
The Starling jeered.
“I say you will,” he insisted. “It isn’t your fault, of course,” he added more kindly. “You’ll forget because you just can’t help it. There never was a human being that remembered after the age of one - at the very latest - except, of course, Her.” And he jerked his head over his shoulder at Mary Poppins.
“But why can she remember and not us?” said John.
“A-a-a-h! She’s different. She’s the Great Exception. Can’t go by her,” said the Starling, grinning at them both.
John and Barbara were silent.
…”Listen, listen, the wind’s talking,” said John, tilting his head on one side. “Do you really mean we won’t be able to hear that when we’re older, Mary Poppins?”
“You’ll hear all right,” said Mary Poppins, but you won’t understand.” At that Barbara began to weep gently. There were tears in John’s eyes, too. “Well, it can’t be helped. It’s how things happen,” said Mary Poppins sensibly.
♥ “Ahem!” said Mary Poppins softly.
He turned with a start and saw her.
“Mary!” he cried, and you could tell by the way he cried it that Mary Poppins was a very important person in his life.
Mary Poppins looked down at her feet and rubbed the toe of one shoe along the pavement two or three times. Then she smiled at the shoe in such a way that the shoe knew quite well that the smile wasn’t meant for it.
♥ As their friend the Lion, dancing past, bent down to take the wing of a Brazilian Pheasant in his paw, Jane shyly tried to put her feelings into words.
“I thought, Sir--” she began and stopped, feeling confused, and not sure whether she ought to say it or not.
“Speak, my child!” said the Hamadryad. “You thought?”
“Well- that lions and birds, and tigers and little animals-”
The Hamadryad helped her. “You thought that they were natural enemies, that the lion could not meet a bird without eating it, nor the tiger the hare - eh?”
Jane blushed and nodded.
“Ah - you may be right. It is possible. But not on the Birthday,” said the Hamadryad. “Tonight the small are free from the great and the great protect the small. Even I-” he paused and seemed to be thinking deeply, “even I can meet a Barnacle Goose without any thought of dinner - on this occasion. And after all,” he went on, flicking his terrible little forked tongue in and out as he spoke, “it may be that to eat and be eaten are the same thing in the end. My wisdom tells me that this is probably so. We are all made of the same stuff, remember, we of the Jungle, you of the City. The same substance composes us - the tree overhead, the stone beneath us, the bird, the beast, the star - we are all one, all moving to the same end. Remember that when you no longer remember me, my child.”
“But how can tree be stone? A bird is not me. Jane is not a tiger,” said Michael stoutly.
“You think not?” said the Hamadryad’s hissing voice. “Look!” and he nodded his head towards the moving mass of creatures before them. Birds and animals were now swaying together, closely encircling Mary Poppins, who was rocking lightly from side to side. Backwards and forwards went the swaying crowd, keeping time together, swinging like the pendulum of the clock. Even the trees were bending and lifting gently, and the moon seemed to be rocking in the sky as a ship rocks on the sea.
“Bird and beast and rock and star - we are all one, all one-” murmured the Hamadryad, softly folding his hood about him as he himself swayed between the children.
“Child and serpent, star and stone - all one.”
The hissing voice grew softer. The cries of the swaying animals dwindled and became fainter. Jane and Michael, as they listened, felt themselves gently rocking too, or as if they were being rocked...