Bookmark Monday: Mike Mulligan and his Steam Shovel

A good friend passed us Virginia Lee Burton’s Mike Mulligan and his Steam Shovel, and Katy and the Big Snow a while back, and these two books had been sitting safely in our “reserve” drawer – waiting for the day when the children would be ready to appreciate their stories (and also extend a deeper appreciation and care for fragile preloved paperback texts).

Well, there they still would have been sitting if not for one weekday night when a visit to the library turned up a board book copy of Mike Mulligan.  I thought it was a great idea, because a board book would stand up much better to a three-year old boy’s handling.

Hm, so much for that.

I discovered after comparing the two that the board book is very much an abridged version with a large part of the plot and storyline removed. So if you’re looking to buy a copy for your personal collection, please invest in the unabridged full version, NOT the board book version as the story is so much richer in detail and nuance and so much more charming in its full form.

So for what it’s worth and despite it taking much longer to finish, we’d now much rather read the full version to DS.

The story itself is an interesting exploration of the sociological and economic implications of industrialization and technology, and the impact of that upon the worker and his machine.

Although written in 1939, it continues to maintain relevance in today’s world, and is a useful book for evoking discussions around how technology and the pursuit of it results ironically in a cyclical cannibalisation of itself, creating its own obsolescence along the way.

On a personal note, I thought it was a good reminder to me, on the need to just slow down instead of continually chasing, of which I have been doing too much of late.

But now…perhaps I am reading too much into it.

If you ask DS, he will probably tell you he just likes the wonderful story, and Mary Ann the steam shovel and the pictures. And that is probably the reason why this book continues to delight children seventy-three years on. 🙂


N.B.  If you like this book, do also check out Burton’s Caldecott Medal winner, “The Little House”.  The full unabridged version, of course. 😉


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4 responses to “Bookmark Monday: Mike Mulligan and his Steam Shovel”

  1. Adeline Yang says :

    hi Gwen … this isn’t about mike mulligan but i’ve just discovered your alphabet wall : 0 and i love it !!!! : ) will try some of them out with Jake : ) I only just realised that K is the same age as he is …hahahah she is way advanced ! I’m just happy with the doodles that he is making now that make more symbolic sense than before : ) Thanks be to God for a beautiful family
    : )

    • iwonderbee says :

      Hi Adeline, haha…nice to know that’s still got some relevance out there in the web world. Let me know how it goes. We had a lot of fun together those days of Alphabet Wall – I’m not crafting as much with the kids as I used to…we gotta get back to that!
      Amen, indeed thanks be to God for our beautiful families.

  2. Elaine says :

    Thanks for sharing. I did realise that there’s an unabridged version (apart from the board book I borrowed from the library) but didn’t realise that we’re missing out so much. Thanks, I’ll check out the original version.

    • iwonderbee says :

      Hi Elaine,
      You’re welcome 🙂 I do wonder why they chose to abridge the board book version, after all it’s not as if it saved that many pages in print…

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