Anita Diamant's Bookshelf
By P.L. Travers
The real Mary Poppins got lost when Hollywood turned her into a cream puff in 1964. Her name now conjures up the image of a perfect nanny—a woman who sweetly charms and pacifies her charges. But children who read the Pamela Travers series know that Mary Poppins is, in fact, opinionated, sharp of tongue, and not always nice. That's not a problem since she is a good egg at heart and, much more important, a witch with a magic satchel and knowledge of secret doorways into the many enchanted places hidden in plain sight throughout London. (Sound familiar?)
Travers had a light touch for the supernatural: newborn babies who could converse with the wind, sunbeams, and birds; an ancient candy-store owner whose self-regenerating fingers are made of barley sugar. But 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? A not unattractive but ordinary-looking woman who adores her own appearance and whose self-regard is as unassailable as the Himalayas? She was all that and more. I never wanted Mary Poppins to be my nanny. I wanted to be her when I grew up.