Mike Mulligan and His Steam Shovel

by Virginia Lee Burton

Hardcover, 1939



Call number




HMH Books for Young Readers (1939), 56 pages


Mike Mulligan proves that, although dated, his steam shovel is still useful.

User reviews

LibraryThing member HankIII
A children's book that still kicks major ass well into adulthood!
LibraryThing member gaylagoff
Great Book for young children. It is one of Amy's favorites.
LibraryThing member t1bclasslibrary
This is one of those classic children's stories that you're sure to have heard of. Mike Mulligan and his steam shovel did wonderfully- until the fancy new diesel shovels moved in and they couldn't get any work. They searched everywhere until finally they dug the foundation for a town-hall ultra
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fast, and the steam shovel got stuck down there. It was turned into a furnace and Mike became the janitor, and neither were out of work again.
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LibraryThing member relientkatie
Mike Mulligan and his steam shovel, Mary Ann, have been working together for years, digging canals for boats and deep cellars for tall buildings. But now that gasoline-powered and electric shovels can do the same ammount of work in half the time of a steam shovel, no one wants to hire Mike and
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Mary. They look for work in the town of Popperville, where they're challenged to dig the cellar for the new town hall in just one day.
The overarching moral of "Mike Mulligan" is that just because something is old doesn't mean it's obsolete, and it also includes positive messages about loyalty, hard work and perseverance - all wrapped up in an interesting story that's never preachy or heavy-handed.
I'd recommend this book for pre-school-age children up to first grade. It's an especially good choice for kids who like trucks and machines.
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LibraryThing member Othemts
I read this book in the waiting room during pediatrician visits as a kid. I always wondered by Mike Mulligan never left the basement. Dedication to Mary Anne is one thing, but he could have gone out for a pizza or something. One of those mysteries along with why did Charlie's wife never throw in 5
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cents with the sandwiches.
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LibraryThing member dchaves
Ah - the boys book. Men and their tools. Makes me think of Thomas the tank engine.
LibraryThing member awiltenburg
This story is about a pair of front loaders that dug so well but didnt leave a way out. A passerby noticed how well they had dug ad tried to repurpose them. Grades 2-3.
LibraryThing member tshrum06
This is a good example of historical fiction. As far as I know, Mike is not a real person, so it focuses on historical times (the time when steam engines still were around but were becoming more and more obsolete), but not on a true person. It accurately portrays the people and happenings of that
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Age Appropriateness: primary, intermediate
Media: pencil
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LibraryThing member seoulful
Another childhood classic originally published in 1939 and now being reprinted. Here children are taught that hard work and persistence will win the day. We also learn that with the steam shovels being replaced by gasoline powered shovels that perhaps the tried and true is not completely obsolete
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despite the new inventions. An exciting story for children as Mike and his steam shovel try to dig a cellar in one day and the whole town becomes involved in cheering them on.
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LibraryThing member TorrieM
This is the story of a steam shovel that was not needed anymore. As times changed bigger and better equipment was made. The town all work together to build a new town hall and Mary Anne and Mike Mulligan had a great job after all. Mary Anne would be the furnace and Mike would dig the cellar and be
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the janitor. This book just shows how times have changed and how technology changes. I would use this in K-2nd grade classes to teach about working together and change.
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LibraryThing member sharonstrickland
Another heart warming story that should be inspiring to children. Mike Mulligan and his steam shovel Mary Anne have all the work they can handel, digging canals, cutting roads through mountains, cleared the way for long highways, and much more. Mike insisted that his steam shovel could did as much
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in a day as 100 men could in a week. When the steam shovel is replaced by the new gas shovels, Mike and Mary Anne are put out of work in the city, so they travel to a little country town to find work digging a cellar for the new town hall.
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LibraryThing member savannah.julian
This is the story of a steam shovel that was no longer needed because the times were changing and bigger and better equipment was being made. Mary Anne and Mike Mulligan find them selves out of work until the people of a small town challenge them to dig the cellar of their new town hall in one day.
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In the effort to meet the challenge Mike and his steam shovel forget to dig a ramp out. Luckily a citizens suggestion that Mary Anne could be the new furnace and Mike could be the building janitor.
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LibraryThing member IEliasson
Mike Mulligan and His Steam Shovel is truly an archetypal picture book: the colorful illustrations are drawn in a child appealing style, and the text and illustrations mingle visuals and prose fluently. The two main characters are devoted friends who demonstrate worthy virtues such as loyalty,
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perseverance, and flexibility. The story ends and all is good with the world and the characters--a classic story that children will love for decades to come.
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LibraryThing member Aridy
Nice tale about friendship, between a man and his steam shovel. Faced with the inevitable technological progress that is making his steam shovel Mary Ann obsolete, these two and a very smart little boy figure out a way to keep Mary Ann useful and for Mike to still have a job with his friend.
LibraryThing member stgayde
This is a heartwarming tale about the friendship and bond between a man and his steam shovel. As time moves on and technology improves, there is little place for Mike Mulligan and his steam shovel. They fight to maintain their place and prove that they are still just as good. In an attempt to do
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so, Mike Mulligan and his steam shovel dig a basement for a building so quickly that they fail to leave a ramp to exit out of. While they do prove that they in fact can dig a basement in less than a day, the steam shovel is now trapped inside with no way to get out. Mike Mulligan cannot bear to leave his friend behind. Thus, the steam shovel is transformed into the belly for the building's furnace and Mike Mulligan remains with him as the furnace inspector.
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LibraryThing member cjfox73
Children will love the victorious Mike and Mary Anne who show their true worth despite the world moving in a different direction. Teaches a good lesson about valuing things that are older and that "newer" doesn't always mean better.
LibraryThing member francescadefreitas
Liam loves this! The story of Mike and his beloved steam shovel is a little long for him at one and a half, and the story of Mary Ann being ousted by more modern machines is over his head, but he took to Mike right away, and has been asking for it a lot.
LibraryThing member haldemac
One of my favorite childhood picture books. A story about friendship and innovation. Mike and his steam shovel save the day!
(Gr. K+)
LibraryThing member DanieXJ
If I could give this more than five stars, I would. It is a heartwarming and amazing story on multiple levels. Shows friendship, and caring, and it even shows what it is to be a community, which, these days, can be hard to find.
LibraryThing member RachelPeterson
This is a heartwarming tale about Mike and his Steam Shovel, technology advances and mike has no use for his beloved steam shovel mary ann but they find a way to keep her around! I would read this to any grade K+, its great for learning about friendship!
LibraryThing member robinlbrooks
This book is about Mary Anne, Mike's steam shovel and kind of girlfriend, doing more work than either one hundred men and modern technology. The "moral" is that we should keep using antiquated outdated technology because it is "better" and it has feelings, while new things are cold and mechanical.
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I liked the illustrations, I liked the vocabulary building, like showing canals being built, because that really helped the little girl who I was reading it with (who I babysit) understand new words and how certain things are made. I didn't like that the focus was on a white guy and all the characters were white.
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LibraryThing member jrohan
REVIEW: Mike Mulligan and his steam shovel Mary Anne make quite a team. The inseparable duo digs the great canals for the big boats to travel through, cuts through the large mountains so trains can pass, and hollows out the deep cellars for the great skyscrapers in the city.
SOURCE: Pierce College
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AGE: 3-6
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LibraryThing member LDobson
This classic tale of Mike Mulligan and his steam shovel, Mary Anne, is an encouraging story about believing in yourself and accomplishing what you set your mind to do. Even though the world around him is changing with the invention of bigger, better shovels, Mike sets out to prove that Mary Anne is
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just as good as the rest. This story is wonderful for all ages but specifically great for ages 4-8.
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LibraryThing member Je2nif4
Characters: Mike Mulligan and Mary Ann
Setting: Various city jobs for the steam shovel, Mary Ann, until they ended up in Popperville.
Theme: Never give up, the power of believing in yourself.
Genre: Family and young children
Audience: young children
Curriculum: Unknown
Summary: Mary Ann the steam
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engine makes a good run with work but soon she is pushed out of the job market by other newly functioning engines. So they take on a new challenge in Popperville.
Personal Response: Cute book that discusses the challenge of when someone looses purpose and must overcome challenge to find new purpose.
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LibraryThing member malydon
Burton, Virginia Lee. Mike mulligan and his steam shovel. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company, 1939 (renewed 1967).

Characters: Mike Mulligan, Mary Anne (the steam shovel), and the residents of Popperville.

Setting: 1930-1940’s in rural and small town areas

Theme: repurposing old ways into new ways,
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friendship, belonging

Genre: children’s picture book, fiction

Golden quote (optional): “No steam shovels wanted.”

Summary: A steam shovel operator, Mike Mulligan, finds his machine (Mary Anne) are approaching a time where their services will no longer be need. As technology advances, Mike tries to find work for the both of them. They have spent most of the past digging canals, cutting through mountains, lowering hills, and straitening curves. Now, Mike searches for work and comes upon a town (Popperville) that needs a cellar dug. Mike claims he and Mary Anne can do it in a day instead of men working for a week. When the cellar is completed, Mike and Mary Anne are stuck in the cellar. Mary Anne becomes the new building’s boiler (for heat) and Mike becomes the janitor.

Audience: small children – preschool through second grade

Curriculum ties: visual arts, science, social studies

Awards (optional): none

Personal response: The bright and colorful illustrations in this book are so well done it doesn’t need words. Before the story starts, a wonderful graphic is at the beginning of the book identifying parts of the steam shovel with examples shown as to how the steam shovel works. The story is simple and sweet and brings resolution to a situation everyone faces, “how do things and people continue to be useful?” As the story progresses, the steam shovel and her operator repurpose their skills to continue to be of service to the community. Who doesn’t like a happy ending?!?!
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Original language


Original publication date


Physical description

9.37 x 8.5 inches


0395169615 / 9780395169612



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