Please read my update. It contains the crux of the matter for me. Biographies produced when Tom Hanks was flogging a biopic about Mary Poppins and its making suggest that P.L. Travers (not her real name) was a severe, mysterious and hard to love woman. An excellent essay in the appendix, written by a man who produced her stage play, suggests that Mary Poppins was in fact P.L. Travers, with some wonderful mannerisms of an Irish maid thrown in. What I was expecting to find as I read was my highly efficient, self-effacing, sometimes severe Scottish heritage grandmother. So the characters who didn't make the movie, such as the little old woman who always makes her giant daughters cry, or the giant golden snake who is the earth's terrestrial leader are just a little too strong for 1950s Disney. It even begins to seem that Mary is something of a witch.
Film is such an incredible and mysterious thing that I somehow never forgot how strangely voluminous the "Feed the Birds" lady's old dress seemed. I am exceptionally happy to report that it was also a night home for birds in the book.
I met the Feed the Birds lady in a park surrounded by highways in Asia once. She forced two bags of corns into my hands and I was attacked by starving pigeons. It's said Disney never failed to cry when he heard the Feed the Birds song. I would have to agree.
I wouldn't have said I'd have missed Mary Poppins by the end of the book, little as we learned of her personality, but truly, P.L. Travers knew how to write a wrenching adieu. She was in fact so proud of ripping Mary Poppins from the hands of children, she even cherished a letter written by a child after her third book, complaining she was making children cry. There is something passive aggressive about Mary Poppins and P.L. Travers, but it's only their aggression which is passive, not them.