Sunday, April 16, 2017

CCLE - Mary Poppins Comes Back by P.L. Travers (1935)

It's that time again! Time for the Classic Children's Literature Event hosted by Amanda at Simpler Pastimes!

My first read of the event is Mary Poppins Comes Back by P. L. Travers, originally published in 1935. I never imagined myself attempting to reconnect with this character since I didn't much care for the first book in the series, not because of the author's writing style, but simply because Mary Poppins is not a likable character.

However, I did pick up Mary Poppins Come Back and did read it faithfully from start to finish. These books are written rather like Milne's Winnie-the-Pooh, in that each chapter is a separate vignette that eventually forms a clearer picture of the characters' lives and personalities. I'm still not entirely sold on the formatting, but it does hold its own form of enchantment for readers, like a collection of short stories all written about the same characters.

As for the book itself, Jane and Michael are the oldest children in the Banks' family, followed by twins John and Barbara and then darling little Annabel, the infant who joins the family halfway through the book. Mary Poppins, of course, is their nanny/governess, and just like the first time, she randomly appears because the children are once again in need of her. Instead of blowing in on a breeze however, now she floats down from the heavens on a kite string. Very Poppinsish of her.

The chapters are all individual tales, like I said, within the main book. We have a chance to meet Mr. Banks' nanny from his childhood (an unpleasant dictator of a woman), travel with Jane into the painting of a bowl where she nearly gets trapped, meet a relation of Mary Poppins named Mr. Turvy, learn that their boy-of-all-work Robertson Ay is actually a book character called the Dirty Rascal, fly to the sky where all the constellations put on a circus for Mary Poppins and the children, bounce around the park with the neighborhood on balloons that all magically have the owners' names printed on them, watch Mary Poppins and some very strange wooden people bring spring to the neighborhood, and finally, watch Mary Poppins ride a carousel in the park that eventually steals her away from the children.

Whewww. Like I said, each chapter is an individual vignette and there are 10 of them in total. Some of the stories, like the one with Mr. Turvy and then the one with the balloon lady are quite charming. There's an adorable innocence to them that's just a little heartwarming. And then there's the chapters that are a bit terrifying, like the one where Jane goes into the bowl's painting. She nearly gets stuck there because the little figures painted on the bowl don't want to release her and she had to be rescued by Mary Poppins.

I also didn't care much for the chapter where Mary Poppins and a character named Nellie Rubina create spring. I understand the concept without much difficulty, but Nellie Rubina is at least as disagreeable as Mary Poppins, if not more so, and I didn't like that she's supposed to be an ancestor of Noah which is why they do what they do. It was just too weird.

Just like the constellation circus was both weird and boring. Even if I'd been a child reading this chapter, I wouldn't have cared for it.

Robertson Ay's back story was possibly one of the best bits in the whole book except that it was a bit on the scary side, with a lot of people dying and getting their heads put on spikes around the castle walls. What is this . . . Game of Thrones?!

And of course, we have Mary herself. Dear Mary Poppins, a woman as disagreeable, contentious, and negative as ever. A woman who puffs herself like a little hen whenever someone dares suggest anything out of the ordinary has occurred. A woman who stops to stare at her own reflection for 5 minutes and then snaps at the children for lollygagging. She pretty much has all of the habits that one would never wish on their own children. So why, in heavens' name is she tasked with childcare?

True, she comes to Jane's rescue, and yes, she loves little Annabel, but her nasty attitude and outright lying about their adventures means she really isn't a good role model for anyone's child.

However, while I dislike Mary just as much as I did in the first book, there are I believe 8 books in the series, so maybe those later books will bring much-needed perspective on the woman. As to whether I'll bother reading those 6 books left in the series, your guess is as good as mine.

5 comments:

  1. I've found myself rereading books I don't like (no, I couldn't say why!), so I think I understand the impulse that prompted you to pick up the sequel. They do sound like quite interesting stories though--it seems like little vignettes wouls work well for the Mary Poppins character.

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    1. It's weird how we torture ourselves that way! I always hope they'll be better than I remember. *sighs*

      But yes, vignettes did seem to work fairly well for Mary Poppins. I just finished the first Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle book and it's written in the same fashion. I'll be reviewing that one next and I just LOVED it!

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    2. Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle is my hero(ine)!!!!

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  2. I think I'll stick with Julie Andrews -- for now. ;)

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    1. I don't blame you. I keep hoping these books are going to be more than they are. It's incredible that Disney saw such potential in such an unpleasant character!

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