Elizabeth and I read Mary Poppins together a few months ago and I'm not sure why it's taken me so long to post it here. I hadn't read the book before although the movie was a childhood favorite. Elizabeth has also seen the movie many times so it was fun to discover the book together.
About 2 chapters in, Elizabeth told me that she didn't really want to read the book because "the book Mary Poppins is mean." I have to say that I kind of agreed with her. Not to mention she was a bit confused that the musical completely excluded the twin baby siblings of Jane and Michael. I think Disney (for all their failures..ahem..Little Mermaid) did a good thing by softening the personality of Mary Poppins for the musical. Mary Poppins, of the musical, was the adult caretaker of my childhood dreams, whereas the P.L. Travers-created character was coarse, gruff and not particularly nice, really. Ultimately, Elizabeth and I are both glad that we stuck through the book for a few reasons.
We were both fascinated to hear the specific stories that meant the most to us (the arrival of Mary Poppins for me, and the bird lady for Elizabeth) through the lens of the book, with Mary's true personality intact.
We also found a great many stories of Mary's time with the Banks' children, that were missing from the musical version, to be fun and engaging, like the late night visit to the zoo. Interestingly, despite the harsher character of Mary Poppins in the book, when I asked Elizabeth if she preferred the book to the movie, she chose the book because of the extra stories like the zoo and the laughing gas which were excluded from the movie.