Big Machines: The Story of Virginia Lee Burton
Many parents and grandparents may be nostalgic about picture book classics from their youth such as The Little House and Mike Mulligan’s Steam Shovel by Virginia Lee Burton. This picture book reads as an homage to the stories and artwork of Virginia Lee Burton. The illustrations are absolutely gorgeous, a perfect blend of modern aesthetics that still harken back to the illustration style Burton used in her iconic works. The combination works beautifully and results in very warm and uplifting spreads. The artwork alone tells a compelling story of an ordinary mom bringing imagination to life for her sons.
However, the story itself is lacking. The cover claims “How Mike Mulligan’s Steam Shovel and Friends Came to Life.” The real information of the book is that Burton had two sons and started drawing these characters to entertain them. The remainder of the book reads like a very brief synopsis of her books. Virginia herself is highly idealized to the point of seeming more like a tall tale than a real woman. There is a page in the back with biographical information. Overall, this reads like a love letter to someone the reader doesn’t know. It’s beautifully rendered but may fall flat for readers who aren’t familiar with these old stories and their creator.
HMH Books for Young Readers
Sherri Duskey Rinker • John Rocco, Illustrator