Mike Mulligan, Guilty As Charged

Am I the only parent who uses the "abridged" bedtime story? What I mean is, I skip parts of longer books. Even shorter books. Like Cat in the Hat - he only spends one page standing on the ball in my version. I just can't take more "cake on the ball on the rake, etc." I abridge quite a bit of Mike Mulligan, too, despite the clever and rhythmic text. But for my purpose here, I read the whole thing. Promise.

Mike Mulligan and his Steam Shovel by Virginia Lee Burton, 1939.

Repetition, alliteration, fully developed plotline. All of these fine qualities combine as poor Mike Mulligan, who loves his steam shovel Mary Ann, must find his place in a world changed by technology. He takes on the job of digging a new town hall and, despite antagonist Henry B. Swap smiling in a rather mean way, succeeds. Through an unexpected twist, Mike secures a future for both himself and his beloved Mary Ann. A few further thoughts:

  • Tidy illustrations personify Mary Ann, illuminating the text and Mike and Mary Ann’s friendship.
  • Henry B. Swap changes by the end, coming to appreciate Mike and Mary Ann and to smile in a way that’s not mean at all. A nice dynamic.
  • But the book is a little long for a contemporary read-aloud. It’s difficult (tedious) to complete at one sitting. So don't beat yourself up if you skip a line here or there.