Illustration: Mike Mulligan
and His Steam Shovel
Written and illustrated by Virginia Lee Burton
Mike Mulligan is one of the most beloved children’s books of the twentieth century. The book is based on the small town of West Newbury, Massachusetts. Burton attended a town meeting in 1938 and sketched the town hall and the people. In the book, after many years of working together, Mike and his steam shovel Mary Anne face competition from more modern gasoline, electric, and diesel motor shovels. Mike finds a small town that is about to build a new town hall and he boasts that he can dig the cellar in a single day. Amid the disbelief of the townspeople and his own doubts, Mike starts at sundown the next morning and just barely finish by sundown but neglect to leave a way out. A small boy watching suggests they build the new town hall around Mary Anne and have her converted to the boiler for the heating system and Mike can be the janitor. As with most of her books, the story is a lesson in perseverance and triumph over adversity.
These works are late-stage studies for the book. The final works for Mike Mulligan were donated by Jinnee to the Knight Library at the University of Oregon.