Pages & Paws

Writing, Reading, and Rural Life With a Border Collie

Which is Better: Book or Movie?

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“Kimber, what do you think is better? Book or movie?”

Depends, says I, Kimber the Magnificent. Usually on whether we’re reading or watching before or after dinner. Lemme backtrack for a min and explain-ish.

Book Memories

Her Momness has been skipping down Memory Lane via books for much of the summer.  She’s re-visited a ton and a half of old favorites. See: The Dog Days and Children’s Classics.


The other day Mom re-read Mary Poppins, by P.L. Travers. Just a few days after watching the Disney movie with Julie Andres and Dick Van Dyke. Having read and watched both versions within a few days of each other, Her Momness was somewhat astonished. At how far apart they are.

Granted, there are things you can and can’t do on the silver screen that you can do in a book. Some book scenes just don’t translate well onto film. But in the case of Mary Poppins The Book vs. Mary Poppins the Movie, the two are almost oceans apart. (We loved Saving Mr. Banks, thank you very much.)

Here are some select examples from Mom:

Bert “the Match Man”

He’s a minor character in the book, without anything close to Dick Van Dyke’s co-star status.

While the bookish Bert draws chalk paintings on the sidewalk as in the movie, there’s no mention of Bert performing as a one man band or working as a chimney sweep. He has no association with Mr. Banks whatsoever. Miss Lark’s dog, Andrew, has a meatier role in the book than does Bert.

The Banks Children

It’s just Jane and Michael in the movie. But there are actually four children in the book: Jane and Michael plus the twins, John and Barbara. And a perambulator.


  • The chalk painting/country carousel adventure involves just Bert and Mary. No children. No carousel horses. No fox hunt. No race track. No Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious.
  • The Tea Party on the Ceiling with Laughing Gas takes place with “Mr. Whigg,” not “Uncle Albert.” And Bert isn’t in the scene.
  • A dancing Red Cow with a star stuck in her horn takes up an entire chapter in the book.
  • In another chapter, Mary uses a magical compass to whisk Jane and Michael around the world in sixty seconds.
  • During a late night trip to the zoo under a full moon, Jane and Michael discover that people are caged while animals roam free and spectate.
  • There’s also a Christmas shopping adventure with Mary, Jane and Michael and a star of the night sky variety.
  • And so on.

No Sugar?

Indeed, the bookish Mary Poppins seems quite a bit terser than the Disney version. There’s no “spoonful of sugar” Mary in the book. In fact, there’s no sweet goodbye scene when the wind changes and Mary leaves. In fact, there are no “good byes” at all in the book. Mary Poppins simply open the Banks’s front door and walks out. Without a backward glance.

The Ending

The book’s conclusion differs dramatically from that of the movie version, and is perhaps most disappointing.

There’s no confrontation at the bank with Mr. Banks and his starchy employers. No happily-ever-after- “let’s go fly a kite” exit on an upbeat note. The book just sort of ends, slamming shut with Mary’s abrupt departure as she sails away on the wind over Number Seventeen Cherry Tree Lane.

A good argument could be made that the film version bears little resemblance to the print version upon which it is allegedly based. In many respects, the Julie Andrews “spit spot” nanny who’s both no-nonsense and loveable, tucking in the children and signing sweet lullabies, is conspicuously absent in the book.

Good or Bad?

Is that good or bad? Well, that depends – maybe on whether or not it’s close to dinnertime.

What movie version of a book was a huge disappointment to you? Why?

Have you ever read a book after watching the movie version and been disappointed in the print version? Why?  

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