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4.5 out of 5 stars17
4.5 out of 5 stars
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The cover of this book is the same as my old, dog-eared copy from my childhood 30 years ago. A Caldecott Award winner, the pictures drive the tale as much as the plot. An excellent book from cover-to-cover.
Re-reading it now brings back great memories and fascination of how Mike Mulligan and his beloved steam shovel worked hard to accomplish a fantastic task. Whenever people watched them dig, they always worked a little better and a little faster.
A modern John Henry, Mike faces the challenge of new technology. Undaunted, like the famous hammer-driving tall tale hero, he struggles to meet the task. Can he dig a hole faster than the new machine? Can he and his mighty red-metal friend do it by the end of the day?
A great story of perseverence and hard work, I fully recommend "Mike Mulligan and His Steam Shovel." Place it on your shelf next to "Make Way for Dcklings" and "Where the Wild Things Are."
Anthony Trendl
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on 21 September 2001
I was born in 1961 and this is the one book I remember from my childhood in the 60's. It is a simple story of a steam shovel that digs a basement for a building and forgets to leave a route out, so finally becomes the boiler for the heating system. All that is from memory - 30+ years ago!! Whilst I was oblivious to the flower power revolution going on all around me and bored with the beatles all the time, I could read this book over and over again. I am glad to be able to find it now via Amazon and am buying it for my children to read (and me!). I just hope they get as much pleasure as I did.
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on 4 July 2004
In the 19th-century it was the story of John Henry the steel-driving man who lost a race to a machine. In the 20th-century a slightly different lesson was offered up in Virginia Lee Burton's children's classic "Mike Mulligan and His Steam Shovel." The Steam Shovel in question is named Mary Anne and all you have to do is see the glint in her eye and the smile on her "lips" to know that she is special. Unfortunately, there are new gasoline shovels and new electric shovels and even shovels with diesel motors, and there is little left for an old steam shovel to do. ... The illustrations from this 1939 classic are charming and quaint, but that is the nature of this tale and even in the 21st-century where atomic shovels may be around the corner, there is still a valuable lesson to be learned from "Mike Mulligan and His Steam Shovel" about how doing a job well means you will always find a place in the world.
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on 24 June 2002
It's incredible to believe this was written in the 1930s! A fable of optimism, hard work, flexiblity and skill retraining in the face of being made obsolete by technology - it seems just as true today as it must have when it was written. But that's not why we love it.
It's a fun and exciting story. I enjoyed this book as a child and my son picks it to be read to him every week. We love cheering Mike Mulligan and Mary Anne on as they try to dig a cellar in just one day. "Never had they dug so fast and so well and never had the sun seemed to go down so fast... Hurry, Mike Mulligan, hurry! There's not much more time!" We get swept up in it every time. A great book for boys and girls of all ages.
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on 7 June 2004
I was born in 1978 and my Mum had found this book in a jumble sale somewhere. It is my favourite childhood book, bar none. I just cannot rave enough about this book - it fills me with fondness every time I even look at the cover.
It is a true gem and I'm so glad I can now buy another copy.
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on 29 July 2013
I loved this book when I was a child and still love it, so great to be able to take it on holiday as an e-book on a tablet to read to the children. However, the transformation of the original into an e-book is not as slick as for some books. Lee Burton embedded here text alongside pictures, so it is difficult to get magnified text to read at the same time as the pictures. The separate text may then end up being replicated onto a page with a picture that contains different embedded text
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on 4 October 2013
Mike Mulligan and His Steam Shovel is a classic book for young children. Our 2 year old grandson loves the detailed pencil drawings of his favorite thing, which he calls a "tractor." As he grows older the poignant story of a steam shovel that has become obsolete will be more relevant to him. I read this story to my children, and my mother read it to me when I was a child, a long time ago. Anne
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on 6 March 2015
I have a very old, except library copy, much mended and read to many children in school . I read it to my 6 year old grandson, who's into Minecraft rather than books at the moment. He LOVED it! All those foundations, I suspect! I ordered a copy to be sent to him at his house! How wonderful that an old fashioned book, even in a shabby state, can attract a techie little boy!
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on 4 October 2006
with its vibrant drawings bringing to life a bygone age and an excellent story my 6 year old son who loves all things steam adores hearing this story time and again and enjoys reading the story for himself too.

This is a touching story as fresh today as it was when first written in 1939 a great book for dads to read to their sons at bedtime
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on 5 October 2013
This was one of my favourite books when I was a little boy. Read reading it 65 years on, I can see that it is rather dated now. As an illustrator myself I can see how things have moved on. The story itself reflects change and how the new and modern takes over from the old. I now see this book is a nice little bit of social history.
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