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Mike Mulligan and His Steam Shovel Paperback – October 12, 1977
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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)
From School Library Journal
Kindergarten-Grade 3 - Author/illustrator Virginia Lee Burton's classic tale comes to life in this jubilant orchestral rendition. Composer and conductor Stephen Simon makes use of strings, brass, winds, and percussion in the telling of the tale, but no other instrument is used as effectively as the Irish bagpipes that present Mike's theme. Narrated by Yadu, this production faithfully follows the story of Mike Mulligan and his steam shovel, Mary Ann, as they prove their worth in the face of new technology. The 18-minute story appears twice on the CD - at the beginning and then again following segments that provide background information on the story, the author, and the composer's various musical techniques. There's also a vocal performance by opera singer James Shaffran of Mike Mulligan's theme song, a jazzy, infectious tune that will have kids singing along. Burton's story still strikes a chord despite its 1939 copyright, and Simon's joyful orchestration is sure to win new fans. - Kathleen Kelly MacMillan, Maryland School for the Deaf, Columbia
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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As soon as you open this book, the old-fashioned illustrations take you back to what was a simpler time, but also an extremely stressful time - the end of the longest and most far-reaching economic downturn in our nation's history (at its lowest point, 13-15 million Americans were out of work, close to half of the banks had failed, a time when bread lines and soup kitchens were the norm, with foreclosures and repossessions leading to rising numbers of homeless as people lost their jobs - just as Mike Mulligan and his steam shovel named Mary Anne do, as steam shovels are quickly being replaced by power shovels. The deep hole Mike and Mary Anne find themselves in with no way out feels reflective of that period. It was a time when loyalty, trust, faith and ingenuity was about all you had to get by on, and the deep friendship between Mike and Mary Anne is a perfect example of that. 1939 was the year American industry shifted into high gear with WW II, when pulling together to support the troops was everything, including re-purposing of various items for new usages... just as Mary Anne becomes re-purposed as a furnace for a new town hall, for which Mike becomes the janitor - still together through it all. It was interesting to discover that Mary Anne's name was based on the Marion, Ohio's Marion Steam Shovel Company, re-named the Marion Power Shovel Company after the change from steam to diesel power within the industry had taken hold. (Sadly, after being sold, spun off, and then integrated into the product line of a long time rival, the Marion facility was closed.)
This 75th Anniversary edition is a beautiful book (with instructions on how to download a free audiobook on the first page)... some of the pages are pretty wordy, so I don't know that it would hold the attention of a 2 year old, but I think our 4-1/2 year old grandson will do fine with it - the words are very simple, and are displayed in interesting configurations (many of the pages have the lines of words in a slanted fashion, which sort of reminds me of a big load of words Mary Anne might lift!), and though the imprinted $17.99 price on the cover seems a bit hefty for a 44-page book, this is one of the true classics (which the National Education Association places among the "Teachers' Top 100 Books") - one we'll be happy to place into the hands of our grandchildren. My favorite thing about the story is the sense of dignity and respect with which Mike and Mary Anne are treated in the end, after all of their years of hard work. If only all American workers could look forward to the same treatment!