The first MP book is wonderful, with surreal vignettes like Mrs. Corry snapping off her fingers for the twins to suck on (they are barley-sugar sticks) and the zoo after hours where the animals walk around looking at the humans in cages (feeding time is particularly popular, with bottles for the babies, steak and porter for red-faced British gentlemen like Admiral Boom). The sequels basically repeat the formula of the first. This last entry in the series works better because it’s one long story instead of a compilation. It’s Midsummer’s Eve and all the Poppins universe characters show up in the park. The focus is mainly on the poor beleaguered Park Keeper, who as usual clings obsessively to his litany of rules (no walking on the grass, no picking the flowers) until he recognizes the mysterious visitors (this time Orion, Castor, and Pollux). Then he loses control and picks all the herbs in the herb garden in their honor. Mary Poppins is still scarily unpredictable–she’s no Julie Andrews in the books, in fact her relationship to the Banks children is a startling portrait of classic “elephant in the living room” dysfunctional communication in which they can’t say anything about the magical stuff they observe without her denying it and mocking them, yet there’s always an unspoken understanding at the end in which they know that she knows that they know. Yet the ending this time is more convincingly reassuring. Michael has asked Mary where she’ll be when she leaves them again:
Instead, she gave them her haughty glance.
“I know where you two will be in a minute. And that’s into bed, spit spot!”
They laughed. The old phrase made them feel warm and secure. And even if there was no answer, there had been a reply. Earth and sky, like neighbors chatting over a fence, had exchanged the one same word. Nothing was far. All was near. And bed, they now realized, was exactly where they wanted to be, the safest place in the world.
…Wherever she was, she would not be lost. That was answer enough.