Monitor picks

The original nanny diaries

Before Mary Poppins comes flying onto Broadway this fall, look for P.L. Travers's books in new hardcover editions with Mary Shepard's original drawings. Crackling with creativity, these tales of a magical nursemaid and her five British charges won't require a spoonful of sugar to go down smoothly. While Travers reportedly loathed Disney's film, it got one thing right: "The cream of the crop, the tip of the top, is Mary Poppins, and there we stop!"

Conjuring up movie magic

The Illusionist is a word-of-mouth hit. And for good reason. In this romantic tale of a lowly magician trying to woo a countess in early 20th-century Vienna, Edward Norton reaches into his top hat and pulls out another enchanting performance.

Musicality on the high seas

Landlubbers such as Bryan Ferry, Lucinda Williams, Lou Reed, and Sting sing authentic sea chanteys – some centuries old – on Rogue's Gallery. The language on these rollicking folk yarns about poor cabin boys, mermaids, and pirates off the Barbary Coast is occasionally as salty as brine. It's poetic, too. Bono's affecting "A Dying Shipmate to His Sailors" is worth 100 gold doubloons.

The ocean's sunken treasures

Jean-Michel Cousteau and his team explore 13 underwater national parks – Yosemite and Yellowstone beneath the ocean's surface. In keeping with the Cousteau tradition (Jean-Michel is Jacque's son), the underwater images are stunning, the sense of adventure palpable. Starting off the Florida keys, America's Underwater Treasures airs on PBS in two parts, Sept. 20 and 27 at 8 p.m.

Belly up to the barre

Balletomanes will swoon over this documentary about the rise and fall of the Ballets Russes. Even those who can't tell a tutu from a toeshoe will be fascinated by the tale of the two competing troupes that transformed ballet from the 1930s to the 1950s. That's thanks to extensive interviews with surviving dancers, some of whom taught well into their 80s.

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