I don’t quite remember exactly when I grabbed this book. It would’ve been sometime at the beginning of 2015; I was looking for fiction that specifically was centered around mushrooms. That may sound a little off-kilter, but I have a fascination with fungi, especially using them in written work. They’re interesting as a subject matter, truth be told.
Anyway, aside from two eBooks I had found, The Wonderful Flight to the Mushroom Planet popped up on Page 1 of searching. Unlike most of the “guides” that were popping up, this was clearly fiction. And it seemed to be aimed at a younger audience, so that won points with me as well. Lastly the idea of a “mushroom planet” did appeal to me, so I now naturally curious about the world inside the book.
I added it to my cart and waited for it to arrive. Arrive it did. Admittedly I didn’t read it right away, but when I finally got around to it, I was glad I did.
Our story begins…
As with my other reviews, this contains spoilers about the book’s plot and storyline. Skip this entire blog post or scroll to the bottom if you don’t need it spoiled for you. Otherwise, carry on.
The story revolves around a boy called David, who lives in California with his Mom & Dad. One evening he finds an ad in the newspaper for someone wanting a spaceship built by a boy, and for it to be delivered at a Thallo street. His dad claims its a joke as he looks into it, claiming that no such street exists. But David has other ideas. He starts plans to build his ship, fully having faith that he’ll find this house at Thallo Street.
With help from his friend Chuck, the two start building their spaceship. Using scraps of wood and tin sheets from a shipyard run by “Cap’n Tom”, the duo finally finish their creation. They grab some attention by onlookers with how big their spaceship looks, which is a bonus.
The two tow it to Thallo street, which they do manage to find the house and the man wanting the spaceship. He goes by the name of Tyco Bass (or Mr. Bass for short). Introductions are given and he invites them to his house.
Mr. Bass is an inventor of sorts, and one of his inventions is a stroboscopic polaroid mechanism. He claims he’s from a planet called Basidium, which orbits somewhere around Earth. It’s been hidden for quite a number of years but he’s finally discovered it due to his invention. He needs someone to to visit the planet and make contact with the locals; it is inhabited, and Mr. Bass is a descendant of the civilization there.
Apparently he says modern men with rockets and devices would scare the poor inhabitants, hence why he wanted two boys with a rocket ship to go instead. That aside, no person from said company would’ve believed him anyway.
(I’d like to say he probably hadn’t met my spacemen-ahem spacegirls. It might’ve been a different story if that was the case.)
David and Chuck agree; they want him to come along, but he claims old age and leaves them to their own means. Fair enough.
He provides some useful tips and supplies for their trip, specifically rocket fuel. The spaceship launch is autonomous for the most part, them only having to start the ship with a button. The course is set by time, and they must launch at midnight exactly, and leave Basidium at 4AM precisely. For the most part, they just have to get it an stick along for the ride.
Everything’s set up and they launch. Last minute they forget that they have to take a mascot with them, so they grab Mrs. Pennyfeather, a hen from David’s house. They almost forget a jar as well but Chuck has this covered from something food-related. They load up, wait for midnight and launch their ship.
The rocket ride is two hours long, and they land at Basidium around 2AM. The place is filled with a ton of mushrooms and moss, which does make sense to where actual mushrooms grow. Getting out, kid spacemen are greeted by the first mushroom people, the Basidiumites.
These two peeps are Mebe and Oru. They’re small men for the most part, with big foreheads and big brown eyes. They have some raincoat-like robes for clothes in ancient Greek style, and they seemed quite distressed.
After some going back and and forth, they find out that Basidium is dying. A plant they get food from is wiped out in a giant heat wave. This in turn is making everyone sick and people are dying. Their leader, the Great Ta, had tasked them as advisors to find a solution before this in case something would happen. They unfortunately haven’t, and would face beheading in the morning for their blunder.
David and Chuck ask to meet the Great Ta, mostly split between being in awe on a planet, doing the stuff Mr. Bass told them to do and helping the people there. David finally puts his foot down and devotes their time to seeing what they can do to help them in the two hours.
The two advisors (along with the Great Ta) show them the spring where the plants would grow. They don’t get anywhere in coming up with a solution, but Chuck recognizes the smell and that it’s similar to something at home. He can’t put a finger on it, though. The Ta gets mad for wasting time and it turns out that the plant takes up something from the spring water, and simply drinking it doesn’t solve the problem. Oops.
Going back, everyone gets together to try to figure it out from the Oru’s research. They seem to hit a brick wall, and Chuck gets the munchies. He pulls out a sandwich along with some hard-boiled eggs, passing some of the eggs around for the others to eat. But as David bites into his own, the two kids put two and two together.
The springs were sulfur springs, and the plant brings up the sulfur in its stems. In turn, the Mushroom People need sulfur to survive. David also adds onto this that the eggs have sulfur in them, hence they smell the way they do.
Their quick solution? Give Mrs. Pennyfeather to the Mushroom people to make eggs for them to eat. They give cooking instructions to a hard-boiled egg, along with a bag of chicken feed they conveniently had brought with them. The feed is also whole grain, so they can grow more feed for her as needed. They are given a necklace from the Ta in thanks, along with their eternal gratitude.
Almost forgetting the jar, they scoop up the air and blast off into space at 4AM, just in the nick of time. But its not home-free for them; a storm is brewing and it might throw them off course. Their ship barely makes it in one piece on the beach (because they pushed the envelope on the time), with Mr. Bass greeting them and telling them to meet him in the morning at 10AM.
When morning comes, the two boys tell David’s mom (Mrs. Topham) everything, who’s all very shocked by what’s happened. David gets his mother to agree to go with them the next time, and she and Cap’n Tom would go to them to meet Mr. Bass. David lost the necklace (leaving it in the ship), which was the only proof they had for their journey.
Lo and behold, the spaceship is missing. Blown away by the storm, no doubt. Also Mr. Bass’ house is a wreck, and nobody answers the door at first. Finally a small boy looking a bit like Mr. Bass finally answers it, claiming that the storm blew the old man away.
Entering in, the group finds a letter left to David and Chuck. Mr. Bass knew he’d vanish, claiming it was his time to go. But in return, he left his property and research for them, requesting that they create a secret society. The boys mull over a bit and Chuck reveals that he found the necklace early that morning while trying to find the spaceship. Cap’n Tom and Mrs. Topham realizes that this thing is quite real, taking the boys more seriously.
David knows they have work ahead of them, and both him and Chuck elect Cap’n Tom to be the leader of the new society. As the two adults leave to take care of Mr. Bass’ will, the two boys look back at Basidium through the telescope.
I liked the book. It was an enjoyable read and I absolutely loved it, and it reminded me a little bit of some of my writing. I especially liked how someone made a mushroom world for some kids to explore; it wasn’t too outlandish and while simplified, still felt alien. The book in general was easy to read and is quite short; a fast reader can probably finish this in about twenty minutes.
I also liked how the subject of spaceflight was approached as well. This book was written before Sputnik and the Space Race even happened, four years before Shepard blasted off in his Mercury capsule. I found the discussion with David and his parents about other space very authentic and enjoyable. The perspective was very interesting.
The only criticisms I had was the kids were very forgetful. Extremely forgetful. As if the only reason they were forgetful was to serve the plot. For example, they were about to launch their ship but forgot to even bring their mascot. Or they didn’t check to see if they had the necklace on them before leaving their spaceship after return to Earth. Did I mention they nearly forgot the jar with the air before leaving Basidium as well? It’s stuff like that. It’s one thing if they forgot the little things here and there, but it felt that these very important things, the boys were irresponsible or not holding them in regard. Really, though. Making sure you have the jar that you launched a spaceship to a planet for in the first place?
The author, Eleanor Cameron never really did kid’s writing before. She was a librarian who had married a publisher back in the 40’s. She wrote her first book The Unheard Music in 1950; this did okay but wasn’t off-the-charts good. This changed when her son David asked her to write a story, self-inserting him as the main character (see, self-inserted OC’s were even a thing back in the 50’s!) The result was The Wonderful Flight to the Mushroom Planet, and this did stupendously well. So well that there was four sequels and two short stories within the span of over a decade.
Eleanor wrote some other stuff, but she unfortunately died in 1991. So whatever books are left with her writing, are reprinted paperbacks or what was published back in that era. There is unfortunately no eBook version of this series, and probably won’t be unless someone with the copyright holder changes and they decide to re-release her work.
Other than that, go give it a read. It’s definitely available on Amazon, and you might find it in a library. There is supposedly more books in this series, and I’ll hopefully do reviews for them in the future. With that parting note, do enjoy the book, because Jessica certainly did.
Credit to Jessica Volke (chinagirl) for the photos