Parents' Choice Foundation: Reviewing Children's Media Since 1978

Stories in Music: Mike Mulligan and His Steam Shovel

Stories in Music: Mike Mulligan and His Steam Shovel

Fall 2004 Music
Ages: 5 - 9 yrs.
CD Price: $16.98
Virginia Lee Burton’s classic story of a loyal and competitive worker named Mike, and his faithful steam shovel, the unsinkable Mary Anne, becomes a three dimensional creative endeavor when combined with the music of the London Philharmonic Orchestra and the lush, invitingly dramatic reading of Yadu, the Famous Narrator. Paul Brennan’s contribution on the Uilleann pipes adds a sentimental lilt to the narration.

It’s hard not to be biased about this product because the story is a constant favorite in my house. My son has loved this book since he was two and a half. He analyzes the diagram of Mary Anne’s anatomy on the inside cover, he studies the illustrations of Mike and Mary Anne digging out the canals, cutting through the mountains, and leveling the ground for the airports and highways. I hope my son picks up on Mike’s confidence in his own ability to take on challenges successfully, regardless of what others might say. I hope he picks up on Mick’s loyalty and work ethic, too. And I hope he also remembers that it was a boy his size that came up with the solution of what to do with Mary Anne now that she was stuck deep in the hole she had dug. Listening to Yadu read the story aloud, these messages emerge more clearly in the story than I observe when I am the reader.

The multi-layered musical score is dynamic and expressive. Stephen Simon creatively over imposes recognizable folksongs to the score with great success. When Mike and Mary Anne are digging those canals, Simon over imposes the song, What Can You Do With a Drunken Sailor? – and the nautical theme places the listeners at the waters edge. When Mike and Mary Anne dig through the mountains to make way for the train tracks, the listener hears not so subtle strains of “She’ll Be Coming ‘Round the Mountain”. The cacophony he creates to conjure up the sounds of cars and buses serve as musical adjectives. The Irish Uilleann pipes are included to pay homage to Mike Mulligan’s ancestral background – and the sound is delicious.

The bonuses include a narrative about the author, Virginia Lee Burton, as well as a monologue by the composer/conductor explaining how and why he chose the music he did. A vibrant blend of story, music, literary biography and song.

Beth Heaney   ©2004 Parents' Choice

Look for this product at:
Magic Maestro Music div. of Simon & Simon, LLC
Major, Specialty & Online Retailers

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