Mike Mulligan and His Steam Shovel

Mike Mulligan and his steam shovelBurton, Virginia Lee
Mike Mulligan and His Steam Shovel
Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company, 1939/1967

Another book I loved from Captain Kangaroo was Mike Mulligan and His Steam Shovel by Virginia Lee Burton. This book made its way into Elijah’s little library.

Virginia’s vivid drawings captivate me just as much now as they did when I was young. I don’t think I noticed this when I was small, but I appreciate the way the words curve or angle on the page to fit the drawings. It seems to give the story life and movement.

This book shows the balance of the old and new.  It shows the passage of time.  It may make the reader nostalgic for a simpler time. I love this charming book.

Mike and Mary Ann, his steam shovel, worked during the early 20th century to help build great canals for large ships, to smooth out hills and curves for long highways, and to cut through high mountain passes for the great steam trains.  Unfortunately, they were being replaced by gasoline and diesel shovels.  As the book said, “Mike and Mary Anne were VERY SAD.”  Read this book and find out what happens to Mike and Mary Anne.  Spoiler Alert!  A little boy, much like Elijah, provides the solution to Mile and Mary Anne’s dilemma.

Virginia Lee Burton

Virginia’s mother was a poet and a musician.  Her father was an engineer and a Dean at MIT.  She went to art school in San Francisco. She moved back to Boston to be with her father and decided to take a class with the sculptor, George Demetrios.  With George, she had two sons, Ari and Mike.  After her first book was rejected, she decided that she needed to read them to her children first.  “Children are such frank critics.”¹

She created her illustrations first, hung them up and then wrote the words to make the stories.  Each new book was a new experience for her.  She had different subject matter and research and she learned a new medium and technique for the drawings.²

You can read more about Virginia Lee Burton on these websites.





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