Mary Poppins Opens the Door

A review

One of the most delightful things in the world is to begin a Mary Poppins. It's as satisfactory as the smell of fresh-made toast in the early morning or an ice-cream soda on a hot summer's day. It is sheer and joyous escape of a very special kind and potency. And with the publication of Mary Poppins Opens the Door, there are three Poppins books to begin and, sadly, three to end.

Australian-born P. L. Travers, dancer, Shakespearean actress, and—according to AE—one of "the more notable of the young Irish poets," wrote Mary Poppins, the first book, mostly for the fun of it, and perhaps that, plus P. L. Travers's special wit and magic, is what contrives to make Mary Poppins and its sequel, Mary Poppins Comes Back, a perennial and international delight.

When last seen, the unpredictable, scornful Mary Poppins, governess extraordinaire and popular beloved of the gods—or is she herself a celestial handmaiden in disguise?—was whirling away from the Banks family and Cherry Tree Lane in the Merry-Go-Round. When we meet her again in this new book, she is diligently stepping earthward, and her first words are, "I'll thank you to let go my shoes! . . . I'm not an object in a Bargain Basement!"

But any Mary Poppins must be read. Their very personal magic—the magic of the enchanted moment between the real and the unreal, the moment of perhaps it really did happen—is destroyed in telling. Let it suffice that Mary Poppins is back in the Banks nursery, and taht the old Cherry Tree Lane friends are here again and augmented by some amazing new ones including a "Cat that Looked at a King," and that even if this Mary Popinsdoesn't come off as well as the first one, any Mary Poppins is an exhilarating experience.