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A Fuse #8 Production
Inside A Fuse #8 Production

Fuse 8 n’ Kate: Mike Mulligan and His Steam Shovel by Virginia Lee Burton

Ramona’s not the only one calling aspects of Mike Mulligan into question anymore. Kate and I already tackled Virginia Lee Burton’s The Little House, so now we cover another book tackling the fast moving world and how it can lead to obsolescence. A tale of “a man obsessed with his steam shovel,” muffs, dabbing, how precisely a steam shovel would work, and the weird placement of the acknowledgement to Dickie Birkinbush, mid-book.

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As I mentioned, Kate and I made a Randolph Caldecott music video about 10 years ago. That second pair of heels? That’s Kate:

And here is Kate’s Kei$ha video. She’s one of the mohawked ladies walking behind the singer lady:

“That’s my Monday.”

Here is Big Machines: The Story of Virginia Lee Burton by Sherri Duskey Rinker, ill. John Rocco, which we mention a couple times

“Why I oughtta . . .!”

Whose choice was it to make the font quite that big? I love the idea that someone in the process thought an openly weeping Mary Anne was a bit unclear.

Naturally, both of my children knew what dabbing was. So let’s do a compare and contrast of my kids (my FOUR-YEAR-OLD knew what it was!!!) with Mike Mulligan. Dabbing their hearts away. Here is Mike…

Here are my kids …

On the left, a lady with a muff. On the right, Mike’s wearing a short-sleeved shift. Any idea why she is be-muffed?

Kate looked up what a “selectman” is. It is, “a member of the local government board of a New England town.” Who knew?

It’s the RETURN OF THE SASSY SUN from The Little House!!! Kate’s previous tattoo has come back to greet her.

The first time I have certainly ever seen a book stop dead in its tracks to acknowledge someone.

And finally, here, you can see “Jinnee” doing a dance move.

About Elizabeth Bird

Elizabeth Bird is currently the Collection Development Manager of the Evanston Public Library system and a former Materials Specialist for New York Public Library. She has served on Newbery, written for Horn Book, and has done other lovely little things that she'd love to tell you about but that she's sure you'd find more interesting to hear of in person. Her opinions are her own and do not reflect those of EPL, SLJ, or any of the other acronyms you might be able to name. Follow her on Twitter: @fuseeight.


  1. I wish you’d do a Canadian classic Amos’s Sweater. I love that book! It’s got the best opening line! Amos was old and Amos was cold and Amos was tired of giving away all his wool. Classic!!! The illustrations are largely a series of tug of war shots from different angles between Amos, an old sheep and Uncle Henry which is very apropos because the book is about conciliation.

    • I get confused between that one and The Red Sweater which, if I’m remembering correctly, is another Canadian classic only it has something to do with hockey. I don’t really know Amos at all. To the (Canadian) library!

  2. Could Mike be in short sleeves because it’s really hot in the cab of a steam shovel, being so close to a coal boiler?

  3. You’re thinking of The Hockey Sweater, which I confess I haven’t read. Amos’s Sweater is by Janet Lunn and is a charming tale I used to read to my kids and they loved it. My son who was about 2 at the time would always get hung up on Uncle Henry. There was one spread he would ask the same question each time and one time I tried to ignore it and continue but he persisted. It was somehow a hilarious moment. Not sure it’ll have the same appeal to American audiences. (My grandkids are not as impressed with it). It’s definitely a rural tale but one of my favorites. Bought fifteen copies and gave them as baby gifts for years.

  4. My fan theory for the woman with the muff is that she is hiding a small animal in there, like a kitten, or a hedgehog, or a pet rat.