Mike Mulligan and His Steam Shovel


Written and Illustrated by Virginia Lee Burton



Mike Mulligan has a beautiful red steam shovel that he named Mary Anne. Mike Mulligan and Mary Anne were the very best pair–they dug canals together, cut through mountains together, and they built the cellars for tall skyscrapers together. Mary Anne was the very best steam shovel around.


But when the newer gasoline shovels, electric shovels and diesel motor shovels came around, no one wanted old steam shovels anymore. Mike Mulligan and Mary Anne didn’t have any work to do–that is until Mike Mulligan saw that the small town of Popperville was building a new town hall. So, Mike Mulligan and Mary Anne went to Popperville. When one of the men who was going to dig the new town cellar didn’t believe that Mary Anne was the best around, Mike Mulligan made a bet. If he and Mary Anne could not dig the full cellar before sundown, they would not ask for pay. After all these years, are Mike Mulligan and Mary Anne still the best team around? Can they finish all four corners of the cellar before the sun sets? 



Mike Mulligan and His Steam Shovel, originally published in 1939, is certainly an “oldie,” but it is definitely a “goodie” as well. The unique friendship between Mike Mulligan and Mary Anne the steam shovel is different, engaging and inspiring. Young children can learn from the perseverance of Mike and Mary Anne as a team. They can learn from the little boy in the story and how he gathers a crowd to cheer on and encourage them in their endeavor. Finally, they can relate to the importance of finding the right resting place for a beloved friend, toy or memento. Mike Mulligan was one of my favorite books as a child, but I love it even more now! The illustrations are simple, but complement the subtle messages of the story quite well. Children of all ages can learn from Mike Mulligan and Mary Anne’s story of hard work and friendship, but I particularly encourage this book for children ages 5-8. 

Don’t forget about this classic when choosing books to read to your kids! 


Reviewed by Mary-Lloyd Heller


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