Logo Title Quebec Reading Connection

Mike Mulligan and His Steam Shovel

Burton, Virginia (Author/Illustrator)
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt 1977. 48 pages
First published: 1939
ISBN: 9780395259399 (paperback)
9780544279926 (hardcover)
Original language: English
Book type: Picture Book

Text Elements:

character, recurring patterns, setting

Reading Range

 
Cycle
Elementary
Secondary
 
1
2
3
1
2
ELA
K
1
2
3
4
5
6
1
2
3
4
5
ESL
1
2
3
4
5
6
1
2
3
4
5
ESL Intensive & Enriched
5
6
1
2
3
4
5

Description:

Mike Mulligan and his steam shovel, Mary Anne, are inseparable. Together they have dug canals, cut through high mountains, smoothed the ground for new roads and dug foundations for skyscrapers. Though Mary Anne is in perfect shape, times are changing—modern gasoline and electric shovels are putting steam shovels out of work. To prove their relevance, they make a deal with the town of Popperville to dig the cellar for the new town hall in one day. Or it’s free.

First released in 1939, the illustrations reflect the era, with predominantly primary colours and simple, old-fashioned, textured sketches. The townspeople wear clothes of the time, with women in fancy dresses and matching hats, and men in suits or suspenders. The vehicles are a mix of horse-drawn carriages and old-fashioned cars.

The text is simple and straightforward: “Never had Mike Mulligan and Mary Anne had so many people to watch them; never had they dug so fast and so well; and never had the sun seemed to go down so fast.” They manage to finish in time, but they forget to leave a way out of the cellar. A little boy suggests they “leave Mary Anne in the cellar and build the new town hall above her. Let her be the furnace for the new town hall and let Mike Mulligan be the janitor.”

This timeless story about perseverance also speaks to enduring friendship and adaptability in the face of changing times.

  •  

    Go for a picture walk and discuss the setting, the vehicles that are illustrated and the characters' style of dress.

  •  

    Discuss how construction is done today. What vehicles and machinery used today are different from those in the story?

  •  

    Draw a character map for Mike Mulligan. Include both physical and character traits.

  •  

    Research the words obsolete and obsolescence. How are they related to this story? How are they related to today’s world?

  •  

    On a picture walk, discuss the setting, the vehicles that are illustrated and the characters’ style of dress.

  •  

    Discuss how construction is done today. What vehicles and machinery used today are different from those in the story?

  •  

    Draw a character map for Mike Mulligan. Include both physical and character traits.

  •  

    What happens when things get old or obsolete? How do we deal with tools, objects and technology today, when they are not up to date or no longer useful?

  •  

    Research the words obsolete and obsolescence. How are they related to this story? How are they related to today’s world?

  • To adopt effective work methods
  • To construct his/her identity
  • Environmental Awareness and Consumer Rights and Responsibilities
  • Personal and Career Planning
  • Science and Technology