Mary Poppins – P.L. Travers

My image of Mary Poppins is one that Disney has almost hard-wired into my brain since watching the film of the same name. It was (and still is) one of my favourites. I never read it is a child for reasons unknown but have now picked it up as an adult.

Why did I never read this as a child? This book creates a completely different world of Mary Poppins. The wind has changed and she has arrived into the Banks’ life to look after not just Jane and Michael but the twins, John and Barbara as well.

Mary Poppins is a much darker version than the screen one, she is strict and sometimes rather grumpy, we have no idea of her age but she is incredibly vain and the children pick up on that, looking in numerous shop windows as they pass.  Mary Poppins seems to wander across into a fantasy world quite easily (she does not question it and neither should we as readers), talking to birds and the wind as do the twins explaining to the readers that all children of that age understand; tea on the ceiling; going into chalk pictures on the street with Bert, Christmas shopping with angels and even to the night at the zoo when it is the humans who are the attractions and in cages and that the centre of it all is of course Mary Poppins.

Mary Poppins is of course no ordinary nanny and P.L. Travers certainly brings that across in this book which is like a collection of short stories, they have no real connection with each other, other than the characters within them. You never know why Mary Poppins chose the Banks’ family and Seventeen Cherry Tree Lane to become her home and work place for a while, it matters not, as you can suspend that realism and be lost in the fantasy world that is created but of course the wind will change and Mary Poppins surely must go to another family……?

This is actually the first book in The Complete Collection which I bought as I had never read them as a child and my mum assures me that we did not have them. I wanted to go and see Saving Mr Banks, but however it was on for only two weeks at the cinema and those two weeks were very busy! I will wait for the DVD and in the meantime enjoy the books…..

…and the film. Reading the first book and all about Travers and the film has not put me off the film at all (It is one of my top three). I watched it all the time as a child and wore out a video copy we had recorded off the TV as well as an actual video bought, thank goodness when we went to DVD!  It kept me and continues to keep me entertained for hours!


The Christmas Tale of Peter Rabbit – Emma Thompson

Peter Rabbit was obviously pleased with Emma’s previous tale and he has asked her back to write another one. This time with a Christmas theme. This is a book for children who are old enough to read by themselves as well as those who liked to be read to. Of course it works for all adults too.

Peter is rather getting under the feet of his mother as she is getting ready for Christmas. When he ventures outside to collect suet from his Aunt, he bumps into his mischievous cousin Benjamin (Bunny). They come across William (the Turkey) who full of his own self importance tells them that he is being treated so well and that he is to go to the McGregor’s for Christmas dinner. Peter and Benjamin suddenly realise William is unaware of everything that happens at Christmas and they might need to help him so they come up with a plan.

This book is just as good as Emma Thompson’s first go of telling us more about Peter Rabbit and also it is still beautifully illustrated which is a joy itself.

Interestingly enough and I have to be honest here, it never occurred to me until I read the reviews on Amazon. There are some adult readers making others wary of reading it out loud to young children as it could raise some interesting questions from the little folk – i.e. that we have to kill animals to eat them. I am no expert but I think that young children question and accept and then move on. But I would be interested to hear what others think?


Realand (The Portal Series) – Dee Kirkby

Being slightly older than the intended audience of this book, I have probably approached it in a different manner to your average 7 year old. However, I was immediately drawn back to a childhood where imagination runs wild and the impossible is in  fact possible.

Opening with Craig meeting a rather well known but mysterious figure, he is given a toy which he has to give to Max and Laura, who live down his street. The only dilemma; Max and Laura have yet to be born.

Years later, the toy has now its rightful owners and Max and Laura are going through some of their dads old broken things and making up adventures. Adventures that suddenly become reality and Max and Laura are in the thick of it.

This short story is great for children to be read to or those who are progressing into reading on their own. It reminded me of childhood books like The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe, especially the Wardrobe bit! As well as the wonderful lands that could be found at the top of The Faraway Tree.  And I cannot wait to find out what happens next and I don’t mind admitting it!

If you have children then I think this book would be great for them. If you don’t well why not relive your childhood! 

This book is available to buy on Amazon on kindle or in good old fashioned paperback! Find more about the author here. 


The Further Tale of Peter Rabbit – Emma Thompson

This was a random buy really based on a long car journey and BBC Radio 2 for company. On the way back from Yorkshire to Hampshire one Sunday a few weeks ago, I heard the delightful Emma Thompson talking to Terry Wogan. An actress I love, who brought Shakespeare to life and made it a bit more accessible than just the boring texts did and rather scary English A Level tutors.

Then there is the acting of course in something other than Shakespeare and Jane Austen; The Tall Guy, Junior, Harry Potter films, Nanny McPhee and the wife without that necklace in Love Actually. Emma Thompson has some pretty good films in her bag and her skill in writing has also led her to an Oscar as well.

And then one day she gets a note from Peter, would you mind awfully Emma as you are a bit of a devil having a go at giving me a new adventure. Who is Peter?

Peter Rabbit in the Beatrix Potter Garden at Birnham

Well Peter Rabbit of course. And so is born the delightful book The Further Tale of Peter Rabbit and I could not resist such a book. It reminds me of childhood, the stories, the cheeky Peter, the wonderful artwork and the even more wonderful Beatrix Potter who one must admire from afar for all that she did. (Another film mention to Miss Potter, which is a delight)

I read it twice and then lent it to my mum, who in her enthusiasm for it posted this on Facebook:

News for all mothers of children under 80 I have just read the ‘Peter Rabbit’ book written by Emma Thompson. It’s a follow on from Beatrix Potter’s stories. Brilliant and excellent art work. A must for the Christmas lists.Back to the book. It’s £5.84* from Amazon instead of £12.99. xx 

Now I was always told to listen to your mother!

*Please note that the price reflected in the comment above may not be the price when you go and look at Amazon.

The Graveyard Book – Neil Gaiman

A killer is loose he has claimed three victims from one family but one escapes. He lives to fight another day. But there is something unique about this escapee.

He is a baby.

He does not know his name.

He finds shelter in a graveyard.

The ghosts who live in the graveyard, claim him and name him as No’bod’y.

Bod becomes one of them whilst still alive. He has a guardian, Silas and parents Mr and Mrs Owens, teachers throughout the cemetery who educate him on all scholarly and ghostly matters.

But the man who killed his REAL family still needs to complete his mission and that is to kill the one who got away. Can Bod survive to live another day or will the ghostly world in which he inhabits finally shut him out forever?

This fantasy book is predominantly aimed at children aged 9 – 12 and I think perhaps less advanced readers would struggle with it, vocabulary wise but would certainly enjoy the pace of the story. There are parts of the book where the plot was certainly lost on me and it had very resonant elements of the Harry Potter series, which could be a double edged sword. Youngsters might find it good to progress to such a fantasy book as this whilst others might find it is a disappoint without much reasoned explanation for why Bod’s family are killed.

The latter being what I found as I thought at one point I had missed a huge chunk of the book out as to why Bod needed to be killed. However I think perhaps with adult eyes we look for more reasoned explanations whilst as children we would simply go with the flow.

Each chapter is a story within itself and they are all page turners and it was an enjoyable read with the right amount of fantasy, reality and enough creepiness without feeling too scared to read on. A book for all to enjoy.

I bought this book because it was on offer as a Kindle Daily Deal for 99p. When I bought it I did not realise it was a children’s book and it was only with further investigation did I find out. That is the sign of a good story, some books are so obvious as children’s books that as an adult you make preconceived ideas about them. Here I did not. 

I was also drawn to the ‘graveyard’ elements of the book. All that history there and past that was taken after lives had been lived and some where they had not lived at all. They all going on living in the graveyard. It dealt I thought rather touchingly (for children) with those who are buried away from the graveyard, witches, suicides those where no stone marks the spot of their burial.

I can hear my family history running through my head, as I have spent a few hours wondering round graveyards trying to find those places where relatives of the distant past have been buried and for what I only have names and data on, nothing actual, no photographs; nothing. 

I would be interested in anyone else who has read this book, but also what children think about it? The reviews on Amazon that I can glean all come from adults.