A Little Literacy, Please: Mary Poppins

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By Leslie Lindsay

When my daughters came back from an outing to the Fox Theatre in St. Louis, Missouri raving about “Mary Poppins,” several summers ago, I scratched my head and raised my eyebrows.  Mary Poppins, really?!  Isn’t she kind of…well, old-fashioned?

But they loved her mysterious magic and fun.  They were mesmerized by her wit and charm.  I had to run out and purchase the movie for they wouldn’t stop talking about her.  My oldest even wanted to be her for Halloween that year.  I convinced her, sweetly, diplomatically that maybe she better be something else.  And so she was Strawberry Shortcake.

We definitely went through a Mary Poppins phase and I guess it wasn’t all bad.  There were some good, wholesome lessons from the sassy nanny.

Anita Diamont, a journalist and New York Times best-selling novelist mentioned that this was one of her favorite childhood books in Everything I Know I Learned from a Children’s Book, (Roaring Book Press, 2009).

She says, “Mary Poppins herself was the best magic of all: a free-spirit who comes and goes as she sees fit; a well-traveled person with a fabulous past; an ordinary-looking woman who adores her own appearance and whose self-regard is unassailable as the Himalayas.  She was all that and more.  I never wanted Mary Poppins to be my nanny.  I wanted to be Mary Poppins when I grew up.” 

Great lessons for any daugher…

The author of the Mary Poppins was P.L. Travers.  I often wondered if P.L. was a man or a woman.  I figured it had to be woman.  Back “in the day,” only men were really “supposed” to be writers.  I figured in order to get published, she had to use only intials.  P.L. Travers is indeed a woman–Pamela.  Not sure what the L stands for.  She was a serious journalist and writer who grew up in Austrailia.  She traveled, but eventually settled in London.  (Probably not Number 17 Cherry Lane, like her character’s charges, but I suppose you never do know).

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