What do you do when spring’s precocious mood throws winter back in your face? You take a trip to another planet!
Well, you do if you are me – You pick up a children’s book you’ve never read and go away for a few hours. In this case, my destination was The Wonderful Flight to the Mushroom Planet by Eleanor Cameron (1954).
Today, it’s hard to imagine how obsessed the children of the 1950-1960’s were with space travel. Those were the pioneering days in venturing off Planet Earth into the unknown. I remember the tension-filled moments of NASA’s first blast-offs, and the fearful excitement listening to reports of landings. We built rockets in school and the boys became their own living action figures on the playgrounds as astronauts.
This was the world in which Cameron’s eight-year-old son lived in the early 1950’s when he asked his mother to write a space story with himself as the main character. So she did. It was her first children’s book and it gained such popularity that several sequels about David and his adventures on the Mushroom Planet ensued.
Since Star Trek and Star Wars, and with the explosion of the genres of science fiction and fantasy literature, children today are far more sophisticated in taste than we were 50 years ago. This chapter book for young boys and girls (grades 1-8), steps back into a simpler era of childhood, but it will hold many worthwhile hours in the life of a young reader’s imagination. The writing is good, strong, clear; the plot is perfect; and nothing about boys’ longings to do the extraordinary has changed one bit. If your children are addicted to fantasy, this may be a series they have not yet found. If they love science, they will thoroughly enjoy it. If they, like me, just need to go somewhere else for a while with some new friends and have some very unexpected and even breathtaking experiences, I recommend a trip to the Mushroom Planet. And, if they don’t care for mushrooms, they won’t have to eat any, but don’t be surprised if they have a new curiosity about that food group.
A final warning to parents might be in order: if scraps of building materials begin to mysteriously appear in your backyard, you might want to ensure your children are really in their beds at night.