Molds, Mushrooms and Other Fungi

I admit it, I think fungi are fascinating. Perhaps it is because they are so different from other types of organisms, such as plants and animals. There is an air of mystery about them. One day the ground seems to be bare, the next it is filled with a ring of mushrooms. Where did those incredible shapes come from?yellow-mushroom

In Molds, Mushrooms & Other Fungi, Steve Parker gives an overview of the different types of fungi and tells what isn’t considered to be a fungus. Did you know a slime mold is not a true fungus? He explains how diverse fungi such as molds, yeast and mushrooms feed, how they reproduce, and how they are useful. He also reveals many of their mysteries.

Part of the Kingdom Classification series, this is a timely book because it also contains the most up-to-date information about classification of living things. When scientists classify organisms, they group them together rather like you organize your clothes in a dresser. Socks go in one drawer and pants in another. People often assume that the organization is set in stone once it has been published. In actuality,  as scientists learn more about various living things, they may change the groups. This week shorts and pants go together, next week they may not.

You will likely run into older books that say fungi are plants, for example Plants That Never Bloom by Ruth Heller. In Molds, Mushrooms & Other Fungi, Steve Parker sets the record straight. Fungi are considered to be in a separate kingdom. On pages 44 and 45, the newest biological classification developed in the 1990’s is laid out. The largest groupings are called domains, including the bacteria, archaea and eukarya. Fungi are considered to be eukarya based on their cellular structure. The discussion of the relationships between domains, kingdoms and then the groups within the fungi kingdom are shown in a way that easy to grasp.

If you like a book with brilliant color photographs, then you are going to love this one. Starting with the eye-catching bright red toadstool on the front cover, every page is beautifully laid out and visually appealing. Each photo makes you stop and ponder, there will be no leafing through this one. The section on “Tasty Fungi” looks good enough to eat.

With a wealth of information about fungi, and well organized and current examination of classification, this book clearly deserves a place on the shelf.

Reading level: Ages 9-12
Library Binding: 48 pages
Published: August 15, 2009
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0756542235
ISBN-13: 978-0756542238
Product Dimensions: 11.1 x 9.2 x 0.3 inches

This book was from Capstone Press.

For hands-on activities to do with fungi, check the Fungus Among Us at Growing With Science blog.

To see how leafcutter ants grow fungus in underground gardens, check my newest blog.


Nonfiction Monday is a blogging celebration of nonfiction books for kids. For more information, stop by Picture Book of the Day. This week’s post is at Abby (the) Librarian.

Nic Bishop Butterflies And Moths

In most areas it is probably too cold for butterflies and moths to be active, but here in Arizona you can still see quite a few. You can spot monarchs on their long migrations to Mexico or California, as well as queens, painted ladies and fritillaries. What a perfect time to pick up Nic Bishop Butterflies and Moths.


The insects are the star in Nic Bishop’s book and when you open it, the photographs bring those insects right to your fingertips. Shot from unusual angles and incredibly close up, you can see adult butterflies, moths and caterpillars in detail that speaks volumes. This book would be a conversation piece even if it didn’t have a single word, but Bishop manages to create a lively and informative text as well.

In addition to nailing the text, Bishop gives proper emphasis to the immature stages, with 14 pages devoted to caterpillars and pupae. The double gatefold of a butterfly in flight is sure to induce some gasps of astonishment. Amateur photographers are going to immediately ask, “How did he do that?” In the real treasure of the book, Nic Bishop writes in the end how he captured some of the wonderful photographs. It is in this section his passion and incredible hard work reveals itself. For one shot, he jumped on a plane for a flight to Costa Rica to photograph one rare caterpillar!

Actually, knowing how much he put into the photograph of the caterpillar that mimics a snake I can not criticize at all, but I really wish he had included a small photo of what the caterpillar looks like normally. I bet children would have been even more amazed at the transformation from mild-mannered caterpillar to ferocious snake.

Nic Bishop has made a well-deserved name for himself as a photographer and author of children’s books. His previous books have won numerous honors, and this book is clearly of the highest caliber. It has been nominated for the Cybils award in the category of nonfiction picture book.

Reading level: Ages 4-8
Hardcover: 48 pages
Publisher: Scholastic Nonfiction (March 1, 2009)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0439877571
ISBN-13: 978-0439877572

Nic Bishop Butterflies And Moths by Nic Bishop


Nonfiction Monday is a blogging celebration of nonfiction books for kids. For more information, stop by Picture Book of the Day. This week’s post is at bookstogether.

Books for Halloween: A Trick or a Treat?

Did you see the promotion about Books for Treats in the comic strip Luann yesterday? First there were books in breakfast cereal. Now giving out books instead of candy at Halloween?

Giving out gently used books for Halloween instead of candy does seem like an interesting idea. My son is allergic to dairy products and other foods. Halloween has never had the thrill for him that kids that can eat chocolate, etc. He always appreciated the homes that gave out small toys instead of candy.

I am concerned that kids that can eat candy are not going to be as positive about receiving “an old book” as the website suggests. If I try giving out books this year, I’ll probably offer candy too. I know, part of the idea is to reduce the amount of candy kids consume, but the positive aspects of promoting reading is more important to me. Let the kids get used to the idea slowly.

Another issue is the age range of the children who trick-or-treat. The website does have information about how to organize books by reading level, but how do you present an age-appropriate book quickly? I am afraid I’ll be giving board books to teenagers by the end of the night. I wish the Luann cartoon had run last week so I had more time to prepare.

One the positive side, this could be a great opportunity for publishers in the future to produce “bite-sized” books just for distribution at Halloween. Now wouldn’t that be spooky?

Writing Books for NaNoWriMo

Are you going to participate in National Novel Writing Month? Now is a good time to pick up some new writing books or dust off some old favorites to have on hand.

Over the years I have found a few writing books that I find I go back to again and again, like old friends. I’d like to share them here. Although I recommend some that are for writing for or by children, all of these books contain information helpful for the craft of writing in general.

Any of Natalie Goldberg’s books for writers are wise and wonderful. Her highly personal style is particularly good for people interested in creating a memoir. She’s also an excellent resource if you have writer’s block and/or need encouragement or inspiration. Two examples are: Writing Down the Bones: Freeing the Writer Within and Thunder and Lightning: Cracking Open the Writer’s Craft.

Stephen King’s On Writing is a real bargain. Even if you don’t enjoy his genre or condone his lifestyle, the meat of his advice about writing is definitely worth much more than you’ll pay for his book.

You might wonder why I have included The Mother Tongue by Bill Bryson, since it is about how the English language came about. I think that if you understand the language and how it works, you can use it more effectively. Plus Bryson is a compelling writer himself and it is worth studying his style.

Anastasia Suen is a prolific author who also teaches online courses on writing for children. Her book, Picture Writing, is based on a lot of experience and knowledge. Writers of all levels and genres can benefit from her insights. (Now, if she would just write a book on how she manages her time and her organizational system, because she manages to accomplish a superhuman amount!)

Instead of teaching adults how to write for children, Ralph Fletcher writes books to help children and young adult’s learn the craft. Two examples of his many titles are How Writers Work: Finding a Process That Works for You and Poetry Matters. I like his books because his passion shows through. They are good because they are quick to read and to the point.

Finally, I found The Novel by James A. Michener a fascinating glimpse of his writing world. Although from another time, and overlaid with a thin layer of fiction, it still speaks to a number of issues a writer faces.

Hope you find something useful in this list. I would love to hear what books you turn to when writing.

And now, check out this cool widget from Amazon. Isn’t it fun?