There’s a book for that: Mary Poppins

A couple of months ago, our 4-year-old got to watch Mary Poppins for the first time. We decided after our trip to Disney, we needed to give her more opportunities to watch the movies we loved as kids. (No pressure to like them, right? I can’t wait to find out how she likes Pete’s Dragon.) So, her reward for having accident-free weeks potty-wise is her choice of Disney movie for a movie night. (Don’t worry, we’re borrowing them from the library. Our budget doesn’t include a line item for unlimited Disney movies. Wouldn’t that be nice!) One of her first picks was Mary Poppins.

Isabelle got to meet her at Disney.

They talked hats, an appropriate subject among ladies.

I’m pleased to say she loved every minute of the movie.

I, on the other hand, was shocked to discover that Mary Poppins had a life before Walt Disney. The movie is based on books written by P.L. Travers. A book, you say? It was almost all I could think about while we watched the movie. My husband dutifully googled the author and we learned a little bit about her and her dislike for the movie adaptation. (Reportedly, this is the basis for another movie, called Saving Mr. Banks, starring Tom Hanks and Emma Thompson. I’m in.)

Making blockbuster movies from bestselling novels is commonplace in the movie industry these days. It’s unusual, at least among the movies I watch, to find a movie written by a team of screenwriters and not “based on the book by …” I guess I didn’t think about this happening in the earlier days of film.

Needless to say, I went to the library soon after we watched the movie and checked out Mary Poppins, the book, by P.L. Travers.

I sort of loved it.

I mean, it’s different. Mary Poppins the character isn’t as likable in the book as she is in the movie, but the stories, especially the ones that didn’t make the movie, are entertaining and enjoyable. Maybe what I liked best about the book is that the things that make Walt Disney’s Mary Poppins so great — like Uncle Albert’s laughing fit or Mary Poppins arriving on an East Wind — were Travers’ idea first. I thought Walt Disney was the creative genius. And he was, in a sense, making it come to life on film. But as a writer, I appreciate the writer behind the on-screen creativity.

So, that made me wonder what other treasures I’d find in the books that became movies we love. Come back on Fridays this month (June) for the series “There’s a book for that.” Next week, The Princess Bride.

FROM ONE MARY TO ANOTHER: Last week, as the finale to Free Book Fridays in May, I offered Unveiling Mary Magdalene by Liz Curtis Higgs. And the winner is: Ladette Kerr! Ladette is a two-time winner for Free Book Fridays. Congratulations! I’ll have your books in the mail in the next couple of days.


A gem on the bookshelf: Review of God Gave Us Love by Lisa Tawn Bergren

Our kids love books, consequently we have a bookshelf lined with kids’ books. It overtook the adults’ collection of best-loved books more than a year ago. They have their favorites, too, and I find we’re often drawn to the same ones over and over again.

A few weeks ago, I pulled this one off the shelf. And I was pleasantly surprised by the message, illustrations and overall story.

My biggest pet peeve with children’s books is when the  message feels forced, and I don’t get that at all from “God Gave Us Love.” In it, a young cub and her grandpa are on a fishing trip when some otters disturb their day. That leads to a conversation about love, all different kinds of love, including the kind where we love people but don’t exactly like them at the moment.

Bergren writes a fun, faith-filled story that illustrates a great lesson about love. She has other “God Gave Us …” themed children’s books that I’m eager to check out. And illustrator Laura J. Bryant captures beautifully this discussion about love with polar bear cubs in a variety of family settings. The pictures are simple, clear, fun and realistic.

Sometimes I think writing a children’s book might be easy, but when I see the difference between an okay story and a great one (like this one), I change my tune.

Ours is a hardcover, but the author recently released this as a board book.

I plan to pull this one off the shelf more often.