Mary Poppins She Wrote: The Extraordinary Life of Australian writer P.L. Travers by Valerie Wilson

Mary poppins she wroteTitle: Mary Poppins She Wrote: The Extraordinary Life of Australian writer P.L. Travers

Author: Valerie Wilson

Genre: Biography

Publisher: Hachette

Published: 1st June 2010

Format: Paperback

Pages: 392

Price: $22.99

Synopsis: Discover the true story behind the creation of the world’s most beloved nanny, now appearing in Disney’s Mary Poppins Returns.

Mary Poppins flew into the lives of the Banks family and secured her place in the hearts of generations of children. Published in 1934, the book was instantly hailed as a classic. By the time Julie Andrews graced the screen in Disney’s 1964 adaptation, Mary Poppins was a household name.

The quintessentially English nanny was conceived by an Australian, Pamela Lyndon Travers, whose troubled childhood bore little resemblance to the cheery optimism that is associated with the beloved children’s tale.

Fiercely independent, Travers left Australia for London in 1924 to work as a journalist and found herself rubbing shoulders with literary elites such as W.B. Yeats and T.S. Elliot. Travers famously clashed with Walt Disney, reluctantly selling him her film rights, and then slamming the resulting movie as ‘all fantasy and no magic’.

Like her mysterious character, Travers remained inscrutable and enigmatic to the end of her ninety-six years. Valerie Lawson’s detailed biography provides the only glimpse into the mind of a writer who fervently believed that ‘Everyday life is a miracle’.

Valerie Lawson’s illuminating biography examines the extraordinary life of the woman behind one of our most treasured characters.


In 1934, the firstMary Poppins novel was published, written by Pamela Lyndon Travers, who went on to write another five in the series. In 1964, Disney finally won the battle to turn Mary Poppins into a movie – with obvious changes that Pamela objected to – as chronicled in the movie that was released several years ago, Saving Mr Banks –  a story that is only part of this book, and that in the movie is quite simplified from the complexities of Pamela’s life. From her early life in Maryborough and Allora, to her life in Sydney and Bowral later in childhood, and her travels across the world as an adult, seeking for something that she never really found, and the events that led her to write the Mary Poppins books.

P.L. Travers’ life was a complex one – and there are ma y things that many people might not know – like that she started her writing career with poetry in the UK, or that she felt she did not belong in Australia, despite being born there. Or that she suffered or seemed to suffer from a myriad of illnesses that often were not diagnosed.

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This biography posits Pamela as very independent, someone who saw two world wars and the Great Depression, Federation, suffrage in Australia, and many other key events. It gives great insight into what led to her writing Mary Poppins, even though Pamela claimed that Mary had just appeared one day – and she did not like to call herself a children’s writer, even though her books have always been enjoyed by and aimed at children.

The final chapter of the book covers the time Cameron Mackintosh spent negotiating live stage show rights with Disney – so he could connect the original stories with the movie and the books with a few additions that stayed true to the essence of Mary that Pamela insisted on for the movie, but never achieved. This takes place about fourteen years after Pamela died in 1996 – on the same day that Shakespeare was born and died – the 23rd of April.

I’ve read the firstMary Poppins book and seen both movies and the Saving Mr Banks movie – as well as the stage show. Each brings something unique to the character of Mary and her the other characters in the books and movies. Each is its own interpretation but at the same time, Pamela fought hard for certain things in the movie and lost on some grounds – but each still exists and we can enjoy the stage show, the movies and the books for what they are and at the same time. This book, in shedding some light on Travers, shows that everyone who has experienced the story in whichever format will experience it differently. One can also understand Pamela’s reluctance to allow Disney the rights to her stories and worried about what may happen. It would be another twenty-thirty years before the second book was optioned, with someone like Maggie Smith as Mary Poppins. Eventually this would become Mary Poppins Returns with Emily Blunt, released last year, with a shift in time. It mirrored some events that were in other books that I am yet to read, and other characters – but still retained many of the aspects Pamela hated about the original.

Biographies of authors are interesting because we get to see where they came from, and what led them to writing the work or works they are most well-known for. For PL Travers, this is the only biography that we have exploring the life of this author, that goes beyond what everyone knows her for – she led a complex life and one that many people would not have realised she led, or what she had to deal with at a young age – a very insightful and interesting book.

Mary Poppins by P.L. Travers

Mary Poppins novel .jpgTitle: Mary Poppins

Author: P.L. Travers

Genre: Fiction

Publisher: HarperCollins

Published: 2016 (First published 1934)

Format: Paperback

Pages: 192

Price: $14.99

Synopsis:Discover the joy and wonder of Mary Poppins in the classic adventures!

The original best-loved classic about the world’s most famous nanny – Mary Poppins.

When the Banks family advertise for a nanny, Mary Poppins and her talking umbrella appear out of the sky, ready to take the children on extraordinary adventures.

Mary Poppins is strict but fair, and soon Michael and Jane are whisked off to a funfair inside a pavement picture and on many more outings with their wonderful new nanny!

Needless to say, when at last ‘the wind changes’ and she flies away, the children are devastated. But the magic of Mary Poppins will stay with the Banks family forever.

The original story of the world’s most famous nanny, Mary Poppins, is a timeless classic that has enchanted generations.


For many people, their first introduction to Mary Poppins was probably the 1964 Disney movie starring Julie Andrew and Dick van Dyke, and for kids these days, possibly 2018’s Mary Poppins Returns with Emily Blunt and Lin Manuel Miranda. However, the story and the characters we love (some of which were fleshed out in the movie adaptation) were created long before Disney brought them to life. Created in 1934 by P.L. Travers, the pen name of Helen Goff, Mary sprang from the imagination of an Australian writer, who was born in Maryborough, Queensland. The story of her life and fight with Walt Disney over the movie adaptation are part of another book I hope to read this year.

When Katie Nanna leaves the Banks household, an advert is put out for a new nanny. Soon after, Mary Poppins arrives – quite suddenly and with the East Wind. She enters Cherry Tree Lane, and is soon taking Jane and Michael, and the Twins – John and Barbara (omitted from the movie) on adventures to buy gingerbread, to meet her uncle who has tea parties on the ceiling and communicates with dogs in the neighbourhood, convincing other residents of Cherry Tree Lane to do the proper thing.

Jane and Michael watch this in awe and are quite taken with their new nanny. Strict but fair, Mary Poppins encourages her charges to behave – with perhaps a little less whimsy and magic than her film counterpart, but to Jane and Michael, anything she does is wondrous.  As we all know, Mary Poppins does not stay longer than she is needed – and must leave on the West Wind. As this was originally written as a series, there are hints that she will be back – and hopefully, the rest of the series will be read and reviewed here soon.

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The magic of the book Mary Poppins is in the way she appears, disappears and takes the children to areas of London they never knew existed. It is in the way Mary Poppins comes filled with wonder, a flying umbrella and medicine that changes flavour for the person having it. Of course, all these things made it into the movie, plus more. A much-loved classic, the book, much like the movie, has its own charm and magic that will enchant readers of all ages for generations to come.

Though set in England during the 1930s, in contrast to the 1910 setting of the film and 1935 setting of the recent follow-up, Mary Poppins will always be a classic of Australian literature. It may not be as Australian as Seven Little Australians, or the Magic Pudding, but it still falls under Australian writers and literature. Mary Poppins might be properly English, but as we know, she is also practically perfect in every way, and her creator is very much Australian.

A good read for all ages.

Mary Poppins by P.L. Travers

mary poppins.jpgTitle: Mary Poppins
Author: P.L. Travers, illustrated by Lauren Childs
Genre: Classics, Children’s Literature
Publisher: HarperCollins
Published: 16th November 2018 (originally published 1934)
Format: Hardcover
Pages: 192
Price: $39.99
Synopsis: An exquisite flagship gift edition of an iconic classic, illustrated by the current Waterstones Children’s Laureate, Lauren Child.
When Mary Poppins arrives at their house on a gust of the East Wind and slides up the bannister, Jane and Michael Banks’s lives are turned magically upside down.

Who better to reimagine this endearing children’s classic than today’s most instantly recognisable and best-loved artist-illustrator? Lauren Child brings the magic of Mary Poppins into the hearts and imagination of readers and fans new and old.

First published in 1964, Mary Poppins has been delighting readers ever since, both in books and on film. This stunning deluxe edition is published ahead of the release of the hotly anticipated Disney film Mary Poppins Returns.


In 1934, Australian author, P.L. Travers, a pen name for Helen Goff, wrote and published Mary Poppins, the first in a series of books about a magical nanny who looked after the Banks children, Jane, Michael, and their twin brother and sister, Barbara and John (Barbara and John do not appear in the 1964 Disney movie). In this edition, Lauren Childs has illustrated the stories told by P.L. Travers, and the world she created in London, and Number Seventeen Cherry Tree Lane, which is an address that is familiar to many through the books, and the movie, and that has captured the imaginations of children and adults for generations.

When Katie Nanna up and leaves the Banks family at the beginning of the book, Mary Poppins appears out of nowhere to take charge, flying in on the East Wind on her parrot-handled umbrella and with her magical carpet bag. Throughout, she goes on adventures with Bert, the Match Man, and takes her charges, Jane and Michael on outings, and shares the secrets of talking to animals with the twins. She has promised to stay until the wind changes to the west – at which point, her work will be done and she will have to depart the Banks family.

AWW-2018-badge-roseThe latest edition has come out in anticipation of the upcoming movie, Mary Poppins Returns, which sees Mary Poppins, this time played by Emily Blunt, return to Cherry Tree Lane, to a new generation of Banks children. The story is simple, but at the same time, filled with a sense of reality, where a family must learn to be a family again, and this is done through the magic of Mary Poppins – though in the book, she is much less saccharine than in the Disney version. Here, we have a Mary Poppins who does not shy away from the realities that the Banks children do and must face in the world that is about to become quite dangerous.

The world that P.L. Travers creates is set in London, referred to as the City, and landmarked by St Paul’s Cathedral, where we meet The Bird Lady – who has a bigger role in the novel than the film, and even though this is an abridged version, it still gets the main ideas and story across, and people can enjoy this and the original together now, as each publication, both movies and the stage show bring a new level and new layers of story to Mary Poppins and what she does for the family.

The story is set in the early twentieth century, though Lauren imagined it in the 1930s – perhaps it could be either, and at the start, it reads like it could possibly be set in early twentieth century Australia until those classic London landmarks are mentioned to cement the setting. It is a delightful edition, and the illustrations are whimsical and fun, but still capturing the essence of the original story that P.L. Travers intended for her characters. It is an Australian classic that has endured for over eighty years, and will hopefully, continue to charm readers for years to come, both child and adult.

I enjoyed reading this book, and hope that others enjoy it too.