CA Mushrooms
CA Mushrooms

Book Review

Fungarium: Welcome to the Museum

By David L. Hawksworth, Laura M. Suz, Pepijn W. Kooij, Kare Liimatainen, Tom Prescott, Lee Davies, & Ester Gaya
Illustrated by Katie Scott
2021, Big Picture Press
ISBN ISBN-10: 1536217093,
ISBN-13: 978-1536217094
$35; Hardcover; 80 pages
Reading age: 8–12 years;
Grade level: 3–7

Welcome to the Fungarium! Step into the world of fungi and learn all about these strange and fascinating life-forms. The Welcome to the Museum series is part of a large series of books by Candlewick Press; they are sort of large format encyclopedias geared towards kids, but honestly adults might enjoy them even more. The artwork is beautiful and Old World, like something from the 19th century. Undoubtedly many will buy this book for the artwork, which would look great framed and hung on a wall.

Fungarium is set up like a tour of a museum, (complete with foil ticket for entry) and the visitor make stops at four galleries: “Fungal Biology,” “Fungal Diversity,” “Fungal Interactions,” and “Fungi and Humans.” The full-page illustrations colorfully depict mushrooms and other fungi, as well as spores, hyphae, phylogenetic tree, etc. The descriptions that accompany are informative and sometimes a bit sensationalistic to appeal to kids (of all ages). This collection is a great introduction to early learners— showing what fungi are and just how vital they are to the world’s ecosystem—but would serve well as a coffee table book for advanced mycophiles.

Kudos to the Board of Trustees of the Kew Gardens for sponsoring such a project! Along with recent strides by the British Mycological Society, inroads over there are being made to correct a generations-long shortcoming in teaching the importance of fungi to schoolkids. One of these days we just may begin working to correct this over here in the USA. Fungarium would make a great start in your household or as an addition to the STEM collections of your local library.

Illustrator Katie Scott did the artwork on Fungarium and many of the other titles in the Candlewick Press series. Scott graduated from the University of Brighton in 2011. Her work draws influences from traditional medical and botanical illustration, both in aesthetic and subject matter. It also plays with the ideas of scientific uncertainty and speculation, fabricating the inner and outer workings of the world. Her illustrations depict a familiar yet fantasy vision of plants, humans, and minerals. The Fungarium text was provided by mycologists working at Kew and are household names to most mycologists. The project leader was Ester Gaya, a senior research leader at the Royal Botanic Gardens in Kew, England. She began her career in mycology in Spain and lived in the USA before settling in the UK. She has spent the past twenty years researching fungi and is especially fascinated by lichens and their evolutionary process. She dedicates the book: “To the next generation of mycologists!

— Review by Britt Bunyard
— Originally published in Fungi