Mike Mulligan and his beloved steam shovel Mary Anne have traveled the country together, digging canals, mountain railroads, highways, and basements for the tallest skyscrapers in the world. The best friends are the hardest of workers, but the age of the steam shovel is coming to a close; diesel, gas, and electric shovels are taking over. Many folks are tossing their steam shovels or scrapping them for parts, but Mike just can’t do that to Mary Anne. Fortunately, he and Mary Anne find out about one last job they can do together, digging a basement for a city hall. Believing in his and Mary Anne’s teamwork, he offers to dig the whole basement in a day, or their work is free! Can Mike and Mary Anne rise to the challenge, and prove that they are the best diggers for the job?
For a book just shy of 80 years old, it’s wonderful how well this classic has held up over the years, in some ways being very ahead of its time. A book about heavy machinery written by a female author at the time was rare, and the decision to make Mary Anne a “female” character is still rare today. The illustrations are quaint, very reminiscent of their era but still full of character, especially Mary Anne. But the heart and soul of the story are the lessons: friendship, kindness to others, loyalty and hard work are all explored and tied together with a sweet ending. I will say one thing: it’s WAY too long for baby bookworms. This is definitely one for more patient, and slightly older, readers. But it is still a wonderful story that every child should experience, and it’s Baby Bookworm approved.