7-Imp’s 7 Kicks #403: Featuring Virginia Lee Burton

h1 October 26th, 2014 by jules

Did you all know that this year is the 75th anniversary of the publication of Virginia Lee Burton’s Mike Mulligan and His Steam Shovel? Houghton Mifflin Harcourt has released an anniversary edition, and I have a wee bit of art today from it — in the name of celebration.

So much has been written about this book, and many of you likely know it well. One thing I’d like to add on its birthday is this: If you have never read Barbara Elleman’s Virginia Lee Burton: A Life in Art—and if you enjoying reading about picture books and picture book creators—then I highly recommend it. Elleman, the founding editor of Book Links, opens the book, published in 2002, with the wonderful story of Dick Berkenbush, a story my late co-author, Peter D. Sieruta, once blogged about and a story we included in Wild Things: Acts of Mischief in Children’s Litearture (“The Boy Behind the Asterisk” in the “Hidden Delights” chapter).

I love what Elleman says here about Mike Mulligan, which is really a statement about Burton’s talents as an illustrator:

Underlining the basic story lies a concern for the changing times—both cultural and mechanical—that confront Mary Anne. Burton dealt with the changes visually: automobiles share the scene with horses and buggies, and faces reflect a diversity of age and economic status — an aspect not often found in picture books of the era. Furthermore, she supplied instant personality in the bend of an old man’s knee, the hunch of a child’s shoulder, the gesture of a woman’s hand, and the cock of a dog’s head.

Here are some spreads from the book:


“Mike Mulligan and Mary Anne had been digging together for years and years.
Mike Mulligan took such good care of Mary Anne she never grew old.
It was Mike Mulligan and Mary Anne and some others
who dug the great canals for the big boats to sail through.”

(Click to enlarge)


“It was Mike Mulligan and Mary Anne and some others who lowered the hills and straightened the curves to make the long highways for the automobiles.”
(Click to enlarge)


“And it was Mike Mulligan and Mary Anne and some others who dug the deep holes for the cellars of the tall skyscrapers in the big citites. When people used to stop and watch them, Mike Mulligan and Mary Anne used to dig a little faster and a little better. The more people stopped, the faster and better they dug. Some days they would keep as many as thirty-seven trucks busy taking away the dirt they had dug.”
(Click to enlarge)

MIKE MULLIGAN AND HIS STEAM SHOVEL. Copyright © 1939 by Virginia Lee Demetrios. Illustrations reproduced by permission of the publisher, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, Boston.

Note for any new readers: 7-Imp’s 7 Kicks is a weekly meeting ground for taking some time to reflect on Seven(ish) Exceptionally Fabulous, Beautiful, Interesting, Hilarious, or Otherwise Positive Noteworthy Things from the past week, whether book-related or not, that happened to you. New kickers are always welcome.

* * * Jules’ Kicks * * *

1) I spoke this week at the 2014 conference of the Tennessee Association of School Librarians. Jazz hands and spirit fingers for good school librarians!

2) This made me laugh till my sides hurt.

3) Look at this new blog about picture books!

4) When I meet someone new, who also loves picture books, and they ask what my favorite picture books of the year are AND they have passionate responses to the same question when I ask them? That’s a kick.

5) The branch of the Nashville Public Library system that I use that is closest to my home has a brand-new, kickin’ location in a brand-new space, and I can’t wait to go see it. See? This is such a boost for that part of Nashville, and I’m so happy the library invested the money in it.

6) I linked to this last week, and I keep thinking about it. But I forgot to share THE BEST PART:

While we were working on the London 2012 Olympic opening ceremony, Danny Boyle met David Hockney and talked to him about Humphrey Jennings’s Pandaemonium – a book I’d given Danny which evokes the industrial revolution and is filled with the clanking of machines, the yells of protests, tears of goodbye, cries of excitement and whispers of conspiracy. Hockney gave us this amazing image to think about. He said, imagine this, the sun pouring down energy from the beginning of time, energy that went into algae and into the leaves of trees, which then sank into the earth and fossilised. What is coal or peat but the stored memory of millions upon millions of uninhabited summers. When the industrial revolution came along, someone opened a hole in the ground and reversed that process. That energy poured out and was harnessed and turned into engines and rockets and aeroplanes and central heating and motor cars, unleashing this wave of incredible creativity. That’s how it should be with stories. They should be sunlight pouring down upon your head and being stored as energy until the day you need them. Whenever we ask for something in return, they are taking that powerful charge and earthing it. Wasting it into the ground. May I take this opportunity to wish you all endless sunlight.

“Stories should be sunlight pouring down upon your head and being stored as energy until the day you need them.” I’m gonna have that tattooed on my forehead.

7) Did I already kick about these wise words from Sam Phillips?

What are YOUR kicks this week?

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9 comments to “7-Imp’s 7 Kicks #403: Featuring Virginia Lee Burton”

  1. My copy of Mike Mulligan is soo lovingly worn. Might have to get this anniversary edition.
    Jules, I love all your kicks especially the post by Sam Phillips…it’s so timely as we enter the holdai season. Some day I am going to make it to Nashville.
    My kicks:
    1. My Laura Ingalls Wilder online class. Her writing path and her relationship with her daughter is intriguing.
    2. The wind storm yesterday. A perfect day to read.
    3. Picking up new books for the library, mainly the reader choice nominations but I was able to get This Book Has No Pictures and Hook’s Revenge by Heidi Schultz.
    4. Bananagrams with grand girl.
    5. Writing.
    6. Visits from former students.
    7. Pumpkins.
    Have a great week.


  2. Happy anniversary to Mike Mulligan! Virginia Lee Burton’s style is so classic.

    Jules: I’m so glad that you enjoyed the conference. Congratulations again on the opportunity, and kudos for jazz hands and laughter. Enjoy the new library space!

    Jone: Hola to the grandgirl. Are y’all carving the pumpkins?

    My kicks for the past week:
    1) Truth
    2) Core
    3) Resilence
    4) Courage
    5) Meaning
    6) Safety
    7) Okay


  3. Hooray for Mike Mulligan! I have fond of memories of discovering that book in my neighborhood library when I was little.

    Jules – hooray for that new library! And so glad the conference went well. Love the last quote and love Sam Phillips wise words too.

    My kicks this week:
    1) Reading a good nonfiction book “Convictions” by John Kroger, a former professor of mine from law school. It’s always enlightening to have your assumptions about someone completely blown away, and a good reminder that things, and people, are not always what they seem. (In a good way.)
    2) Friday fun afternoon of late snacks, beer & shopping a sale at the Timbers store with a friend.
    3) Watching a trial Monday and meeting an expert I’d previously only spoken on the phone or emailed with. Its always so nice to put a face to the voice/name.
    4) Putting rain boots and Daisy and after her initial hysterically funny awkwardness, the smartypants figured them out and did great.
    5) Modern Family marathon catchup.
    6) Wine and cheese and catching up with a good girlfriend.
    7) Combination of yesterday’s windstorm and the incredibly exciting World Series game last night!

    Daisy is pouting as I type this, so its time for her morning walk.

    Have a great day and a wonderful week!


  4. I am definitely going to be getting this anniversary publication and I have not read the Barbara Elleman book yet so it’s going on my list. Thank you Jules.

    Jules: As to your kick #2 I could hardly breathe I was laughing so hard. I will be watching that again because laughter is so great for the soul.

    Jone: We have had a lot of wind lately too but nothing quite like yours yet. It makes raking leaves a tad bit tricky.

    Willow: Courage is a great word to carry with you wherever you go.

    Rachel: Would have loved to have seen your Daisy in her rain boots.

    My kicks:
    1. Crisp air and cloudless blue skies
    2. Piles of leaves coating everything
    3. Mums and pumpkins
    4. Frost edging on colored leaves
    5. An uninterrupted late night stroll in the neighborhood
    6. Halloween decorations
    7. Walks with Xena


  5. Jone, we’re reading Hook’s Revenge now, me and the girls. It’s fun. I’m planning on a Q&A with the author. … I also love reading in the rain.

    Little Willow, I like “Okay” as a kick. It’s remarkably Zen. Or something.

    Rachel: Sweet Daisy! Any more adoption news?

    Margie: Your kicks often read like a good sensory poem. I think we’ll have piles of leaves here soon, but today it’s unseasonably warm.

    Have a great week, everyone!


  6. LW: love resilience and okay as kicks.
    Rachel, I agee the wind was the best yesterday.
    Margie: piles of leaves, pumpkins, and mums…such wonderful colors.


  7. Hey Jules! I’m hoping to see you in K’ville tomorrow when I get a copy of your BOOK!! :-).


  8. P.S. One of my fellow reviewers and I have a whole week coming up of loving devotion to Burton (cue the warm fuzzies!). Happy birthday to Mike and Maryann :-).


  9. Great, Betsy! Hope to see you there.


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