Mike Mulligan and His Steam Shovel

Common Sense Media says

Teaches important lessons about faith, friendship.





What parents need to know

Violence & scariness
Not applicable
Not applicable

Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that there's no objectionable content in this book. Lively drawings and simple text encourage kids to chime in, and the story has an unusually satisfying ending.

Parents say

Kids say

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What's the story?

This classic story will have your kids cheering! Can Mike and his trusty steam shovel, Mary Anne, dig the cellar for the new town hall in just one day? This fun book, filled with energetic crayon illustrations, teaches kids important lessons about faith and friendship.

Is it any good?


A family favorite for more than 60 years, this book is a reassuring slice of nostalgia. With a story as steady and reliable as Mary Anne, it gives kids the opportunity to anticipate what will happen next. Down-to-earth language, with repeating phrases, lets kids become comfortable with the text and join in. One adult who hadn't read the book since childhood was delighted to discover she still remembered key words.

The pictures support the aura of familiarity. No fussy, fancy artwork -- just crayon drawings of rectangular houses with smoke curling from the chimneys, and of the sun, a smiling yellow ball. With such a trustworthy delivery, you can rest assured your kids will absorb the important messages. MIKE MULLIGAN AND HIS STEAM SHOVEL suggests that kids aim high, work hard, and expect to fulfill their dreams.

Families can talk about...

  • Families can talk about perseverance. Mike and Mary Anne don't give up -- they seek out challenges. Ask kids about challenges they've faced and how they persevered.

Book details

Author:Virginia Lee Burton
Illustrator:Virginia Lee Burton
Topics:Cars and trucks
Book type:Fiction
Publisher:Houghton Mifflin Children's Books
Publication date:September 9, 1939
Number of pages:44
Publisher's recommended age(s):4 - 7

This review of Mike Mulligan and His Steam Shovel was written by

About our rating system

  • ON: Content is age-appropriate for kids this age.
  • PAUSE: Know your child; some content may not be right for some kids.
  • OFF: Not age-appropriate for kids this age.
  • NOT FOR KIDS: Not appropriate for kids of any age.

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Our star rating assesses the media's overall quality.

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Learning ratings

  • Best: Really engaging, great learning approach.
  • Very Good: Engaging, good learning approach.
  • Good: Pretty engaging, good learning approach.
  • Fair: Somewhat engaging, okay learning approach.
  • Not for Learning: Not recommended for learning.
  • Not for Kids: Not age-appropriate for kids; not recommended for learning.

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What parents and kids say

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Adult Written bycommon_sense_user_12 April 9, 2008
AGENot rated for age
Adult Written bysarah_from_yale April 9, 2008
AGENot rated for age


This classic children's book teaches children about the value of friendship, and luckily for parents, only gets better with repetition!
Adult Written byJohnDavies April 2, 2011
This book has to have something about it to have remained in print for so many years. I read it, aged about 6, 52 years ago, and still remember it with great affection. The punning name for the shovel (for people unfamiliar with the real things, Mary Anne is a play on 'Marion', a famous steam-shovel builder) gives it a friendly personality and ties the whimsy in to reality. Great story, with a happy ending.


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