Mary Poppins

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Mary Poppins is the title of a 1934 children's book by P. L. Travers (1899-1996).[1] Libraries consider it to be a "contemporary classic of children's literature.".[2] A 1964 film adaptation of the book by Walt Disney, starring Julie Andrews and Dick Van Dyke, won many awards and was and continues to be hugely popular.

On its appearance, a New York Times reviewer praised the

quality of the imagination of Miss P. L. Travers, the young Irishwoman[3] who has created the entrancing Mary Poppins... it combines the spirit of "Alice in Wonderland," of "Aladdin and His Wonderful Lamp" and certain parts of Christopher Morley's "Thunder on the Left" with a pleasantly tart flavor of its own...[4]

The reviewer comments that Mary Poppins "never wasted time in being nice" and that "Mary made it a practice never to say a sugary thing."

The 1964 Disney movie adaptation won Academy awards for Julie Andrews as best actress, for best special effects, for best score and best song ("Chim-Chim-Cheree,") and best editing.[5] Disney adapted the book freely. The books are set in the 1930s, the Disney film in the Edwardian era. The movie is considerably sweeter in tone than the book (as suggested by the title of one of its songs, "A Spoonful of Sugar"). A librarian complained that

the acerbity of Mary Poppins, unpredictable, full of wonder and mystery, becomes, with Mr. Disney's treatment, one great, marshmallow-covered creampuff.[6]

Bosley Crowther, however, said

In case you are a Mary Poppins zealot who dotes on her just as she is, don't let the intrusion of Mr. Disney and his myrmidons worry you one bit.... This is the genuine Mary Poppins that comes sailing in on an east wind, her open umbrella canted over on the starboard tack.... Of course, it is sentimental. And, as Mary Poppins says, "Practically perfect people never permit sentiment to muddle their feelings." But being not practically perfect, I find it irresistible. "[7]


The Disney movie contains the well-known song by Sherman and Sherman, Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious. Sometimes people believe this to be a real word, but it is not found in any dictionary. (The "longest word in the dictionary" depends on what dictionary you consult; candidates include "antidisestablishmentarianism," "pneumonoultramicroscopicsilicovolcanoconiosis," and "floccinaucinihilipilification.") However, it appears that it was not invented by the Shermans, either.

In 1965, two songwriters brought suit against Disney for the song "Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious," stating that they had published a song in 1949 containing the word "Supercalafajalistickespeealadojus."[8] They lost the case, in part because of testimony that the word had been used by others prior to 1949. In a memoir, the Sherman brothers said they had learned the word themselves in a summer camp in the Adirondacks, circa 1918. The song has been parodied by the political satire group the Capitol Steps in a song entitled SuperCaliforniaRecallFreakShowWasAtrocious.

Mary Poppins books by P. L. Travers

  • Mary Poppins (1934)
  • Mary Poppins Open the Door (1943)
  • Mary Poppins in the Park (1952)
  • Mary Poppins from A to Z (1962)
  • Mary Poppins in Cherry Tree Lane (1982)
  • Mary Poppins and the House Next Door (1988)[1]


  1. 1.0 1.1 Fox, Margalit (1996), "P.L. Travers, Creator of the Magical and Beloved Nanny Mary Poppins, Is Dead," The New York Times, April 25, 1996, p. B14
  2. e.g. Classics for Children, Madison Public Library
  3. Apparently a mistake; according to the New York Times obituary for P. L. Travers, she was not Irish; she was born in Australia and lived most of her adult life in London, England
  4. Chamberlain, John (1934), "Books of the Times," The New York Times, December 3, 1934, p. 15
  5. Awards for Mary Poppins.
  6. As quoted by Shickel, Richard (1968), The Disney Version, Part XI, page 299 of the Avon paperback edition
  7. Screen: 'Mary Poppins':Julie Andrews Stars as Famous Nanny, The New York Times, September 25, 1964
  8. :A Supercal . . . Super—Suit Filed on Song Title, The New York Times, February 26, 1965, p. 18.