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Mike Mulligan and His Steam Shovel Hardcover – September 9, 1939

4.6 out of 5 stars 271 customer reviews

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Hardcover, September 9, 1939
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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com 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. But the introduction of gasoline, electric, and diesel shovels means big trouble for Mike and Mary Anne. No one wants an old-fashioned steam shovel like Mary Anne when a modern shovel can do the digging in half the time! Forced to travel far out of the city to look for work, Mike and Mary Anne find themselves in the little town of Popperville. Mike and Mary Anne make a bid to dig the cellar for the new town hall, promising the town that if they can't dig the cellar in just one day they'll accept no payment for the job. Will Mike and Mary Anne be able to complete the job? The whole town of Popperville turns out to watch. Virginia Lee Burton, author of such classic children's books as The Little House and Katy and the Big Snow, offers a touching portrait of love and dedication while commenting on the modernization that continuously shapes our lives. Hamilton's wonderful crayon drawings bring Mike and the indomitable Mary Anne to life. (Ages 3 to 6) --This text refers to the Paperback edition.

From School Library Journal

PreSchool-Grade 3-This longtime children's favorite, first published in 1939, has never lost its appeal. Now, it has been translated into simple, easily understood Spanish. After working together for many years, Mike Mulligan and his steam shovel, Mary Anne, are told that their services are no longer needed. Not one to give up easily, Mike proposes that he and Mary Anne will excavate the basement for the new town hall in only one day. The whole town gathers around the work site to see how this indomitable pair will fare in their race against time. The brightly colored, charming crayon drawings add to the cheerfulness of presentation.
Tania Colmant-Donabedian, Queens Borough Public Library, NY
Copyright 1998 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Product Details

  • Age Range: 4 - 7 years
  • Grade Level: Preschool - 3
  • Hardcover: 56 pages
  • Publisher: HMH Books for Young Readers (September 9, 1939)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0395169615
  • ISBN-13: 978-0395169612
  • Product Dimensions: 9.4 x 0.1 x 8.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 9.6 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (271 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #211,681 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Board book
I hate to give this such a low rating, but before you buy the board book edition you need to know that it isn't just shortened, but the whole plot is gone.

Yes Henry B Swap is mentioned, but no mention of a challenge to dig the cellar in one day, or he won't get paid.

No sun high in the sky and being halfway done.

No Henry B Swap saying that since the steam shovel can't get out they don't get paid.

No ending where Henry B. Swap sits in the cellar and smiles in a way that's not mean at all.

If you want the great story, DON'T BUY THE BOARD BOOK!
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Format: Hardcover
When I was growing up, I don't think there was any story I requested more than Mike Mulligan and his Steam Shovel.I have fond memories of my grandfather reading it to me again and again.
The easy to remember and recite text, and the early 40s middle America drawings combine to create an evocative time piece.
I believe this is one book that will cut past the computer generated entertainment for today's youngsters, and prove to be a classic in generations to come.
If parents don't buy this for their kids, then I hope they'll buy it for themselves.
Great ending too!
1 Comment 34 of 35 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you? Yes No Sending feedback...
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Format: Hardcover
Yes, its true -- I dreaded the nights (night after night after night) when one of my sons would insist we read this book! Why? Because it's long, and detailed -- good for the child, terrible for a weary parent. My boys memorized the story, and if I ever tried to skip a page, I was found out and the missing page was revisited.
This book is a great gift to give to any child who is enthralled with heavy machinery, but there's more to it than that. At the time the story is written (1939) Mike Mulligan and Mary Anne, his steam shovel, are becoming outdated. They used to be busy in the big city, making basements for big buildings. But as always happens, something better - faster, more efficient gas, electric and Diesel shovels - is replacing them.
Mike Mulligan knows they still have value. He's always told people that Mary Anne could dig as much in a day as a hundred men could dig in a week, though he's never been quite sure this is true.
To find work, he ventures into the country to the town of Popperville, where a new Town Hall is being built. Mike promises to build the cellar in just one day ("What!" said Henry B. Swap. "Dig a cellar in just one day! It would take a hundred men at least a week to dig the cellar for our new town hall." ) Henry and the townpeople are swayed when Mike promises that "If we can't do it, you won't have to pay."
The citizens of Bangerville and Bopperville, Kipperville and Kopperville plus all the people from Popperville come out to watch Mike and Mary Anne work hard under the hot sun. They finish the job as the sun sets, just in the nick of time.
One small boy has been watching them, and he asks a really good question - "How are they going to get out?
Read more ›
1 Comment 77 of 87 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you? Yes No Sending feedback...
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Format: Hardcover
Well, contrary to Susan McGee's opinion, this book is great for girls and about girls. The gender-oriented language of "policeMEN", "fireMEN", etc is not straight out of the 1950's, it is in fact straight out of 1939 when the book was initially published. And in your obsessive noticing of all the "weak" women in the book, you overlooked MaryAnn- the heroine! Better than 100 men, SHE could dig a cellar in JUST ONE DAY!
I'm not overly crazy about this book. As one reviewer said, the detail is occasionally tedious for parents, but my kids love it and are riveted as the sun rises in the sky. That makes the book a winner for us. Not to mention that I like the message of not giving up on something/ someone just because something newer comes along. And my daughter loves it just as much as my son.
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Format: Paperback
Oh how wonderful this book is, in so many different ways. Written in the 40s, its illustrations hark back to an earlier era, when children were allowed to be children, and when the values we taught them were couched in terms that a child could understand. Instead of violence and video games.
Mike Mulligan and his faithful steam shovel Mary Ann have been "downsized," if you will, by the advent of gasoline-powered engines, and other "modern miracles" that have made poor, faithful Mary Ann obsolete overnight. In order to find work, Mike and Mary Ann travel over hill and dale until they come to the small town of Popperville. There, they find that the town mayor is taking bids to dig the basement for a brand-new skyscraper. Mike makes a bid, and is met with laughter. But instead of giving up...INSTEAD OF GIVING UP...he makes a deal. He and Mary Ann will dig the basement in one day. If they don't make it, they won't accept payment.
The valiant steamshovel and the equally valiant Mike set off to prove to the world that they are not obsolete, not worthless...just because they are old, just because they are now different, they still have value! And they dig, and they dig, and they dig. And soon they have attracted a large audience, all of whom are pulling for the team to win, even though it seems impossible.
In the end, Mike and Mary Ann have prevailed. They have dug the basement in one day! But just when they are being celebrated as heroes, a terrible problem arises. Mary Ann cannot get back out of the hole. What is to happen? Was it all for nothing?
The ingenious solution to the problem, and the sheer joy of the solution, warms my heart as much today as it ever did. This is a wonderful way of teaching children to persevere, to glory in their "otherness" and to grab life with both hands. It is a treasure, a classic becaue it deserves to be.
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