Review: Mike Mulligan and His Steam Shovel by Virginia Lee Burton

mmssTitle: Mike Mulligan and His Steam Shovel

Author: Virginia Lee Burton

Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

Source: Gift/Won (in work draw)

Check this book out on Goodreads.

Buy this book at: Chapters | Book Depository

3 stars

Mike and his trusty steam shovel, Mary Anne, dig deep canals for boats to travel through, cut mountain passes for trains, and hollow out cellars for city skyscrapers — the very symbol of industrial America. But with progress come new machines, and soon the inseparable duo are out of work. Mike believes that Mary Anne can dig as much in a day as one hundred men can dig in a week, and the two have one last chance to prove it and save Mary Anne from the scrap heap. What happens next in the small town of Popperville is a testament to their friendship, and to old-fashioned hard work and ingenuity. (Source: Goodreads)

Mike Mulligan and his steam shovel, Mary Ann, have helped to dig up some important things, from canals to skyscrapers, but nowadays they’re out of date and a little old fashioned because of all the new gas and electric shovels. They go in search of new work and wind up helping out a little town in need of work. This edition also included an audio book (narrated by Matthew Broderick!!!)

I found this book enjoyable. I wasn’t a huge fan of the illustrations, and I also found the story a little outdated given that it celebrates a lot of achievements that are a little questionable, like digging up land for highways. The latter half of the story, which encourages ingenuity and collaboration on the other hand is really great.

The art was definitely not my favourite part of the story. It’s not bad, it’s just not my favourite thing around. The illustrations definitely have a lot of character, I especially liked the illustrations of horses. I think there’s something about them which is really classic looking, but is also really old school? It’s not my favourite style, and reminds me of lots of the older books I read as a kid, which I was often not too fond of. Though, it also makes me kind nostalgic for the old Disney books I read as a kid which had similar style.

The story begins with some pretty forceful appreciation for industrialization. It’s not that industrialization is all bad, but the story is basically very pushy about how great it was to do all his stuff that essentially ruined the environment. Obviously, in its contemporary time this is a pretty important message and pretty common. From a point of view of a reader in the here and now it’s not exactly the kind of message you want to get behind.

Th other half of the story, about the townspeople coming together to support Mike and Mary Ann, was really great. It was inspiring to read about everyone coming together to support him and to help him out. I think it was a fairly good message in the second half of the book. I definitely found myself enjoying the book more towards the end.

I did enjoy the book, and it is certainly a classic, so I would recommend it. However, the content should probably be mixed with content that is more environmentally conscious.

Ramble on,
Kimber


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