Book Review

Fungi, A Kingdom of Their Own

By Wendy Plowman
2007

I recently received an advanced copy of this book and when I found out it was meant for fifth and sixth graders I almost set it aside. However, if I had done that, I would have made a big mistake. After reading the book, I would put it on a must-have mushroom book list; not for you, but for your children and grandchildren. It is also an excellent book for the new mushroomer.

The book is 7¼ inches by 10¼ inches and is 50 pages long, with color. There are plenty of good photographs and a number of excellent diagrams. When I was in school, we were taught there were two kingdoms, plants and animals. Now there are five. I remember my teachers mentioning the word fungi and spending about five seconds on the subject. The book is written for fifth and sixth graders; I questioned my wife Becky about that since she is an elementary school teacher. I thought it might be more appropriate for junior high school students, but she disagreed and thought they had chosen the right grade levels. 

The book is told through the eyes of a student and his teacher as the teacher presents the world of mushrooms to his class. It talks about fungal parts, parasitic fungi, saprophytic fungi and symbiotic fungi. It covers them from spores to the fruiting body. Mycorrhizal association is presented, so are yeast, lichens, penicillin, mildew, and a host of other subjects. There are lots of good photographs.  

There is a very small field guide in the back of the book as well as an experiment or two that young people can do. The book is broken down into the following sections:  Life cycle and ecological role; Fungi and human uses; Fungi in the real world; Mushroom treasure hunt; and Having fun with fungi.

The book was written for the Pennsylvania Wild Resources Conservation Program and is edited by Jerry Hassinger, Chairman of the PA Biological Survey, and by John Plischke III, Chairman of the Fungus Section of the PA Biological Survey. The Wild Resource Conservation Fund of PA is going to donate at least one of these books to every elementary school in the state. 

An autographed book can be purchased from the author for $10, postage included. The check should made payable to Wendy Plowman, 6780 Hickory Lane, Harrisburg, PA 17112 along with your return address. It can also be purchased from the PA DCNR Nature Store, or to place an order, call 717-787-3212.

— Review by John Plischke
— Originally published in Fungi