As residents of the Pacific Northwest, seeing mushrooms and a variety of other types of fungus is commonplace. Although we look forward to the autumnal fungal explosion in our local natural areas, we can expect to see mushrooms pretty much any time of year. As a family, we’re not into harvesting edible mushrooms – we simply enjoy seeing them, taking photos, and trying to identify them. But there is a much bigger story to fungi that takes place beyond the forest. In It’s a Fungus Among Us: the Good, the Bad & the Downright Scary, authors Carla Billups & Dawn Cusick lift up the mushroom’s cap to reveal the fascinating world of these spore-based organisms (that are certainly not plants!).
The book is organized in four sections, the first being an overview of fungi as a whole (what defines a fungus, size and shape diversity, an up-close look at fungus anatomy, habitats, what is not a fungus, and more). The following three sections are indicated by the book’s subtitle, each copiously illustrated with photos. In “The Good,” readers learn the many benefits that fungi can provide, as food for plants and animals, as decomposers in nature or for serious situations, such as the need for breaking down plastics in the oceans, and their use in medicines for human diseases as well as cooking. In “The Bad,” the topics covered are more varied: issues with fungus on the Mir and International space stations, the potential for fungus to cause problems on manned missions to Mars, fungal diseases in plants, animals, and humans, spoiled foods, and mold in human structures. The third section, “The Downright Scary,” is likely one that the intended readers of this book might first flip to – scary infections, fungal diseases, and extinction, oh my! But seriously, kids love the gruesome and zombies, right?
There is a lot to learn about fungi in It’s a Fungus Among Us, and the text is nicely spaced out in easily-digestible paragraphs, with a useful glossary at the end. For any upper elementary teacher including fungi in their lesson plans, or homeschooling parent wishing to extend their mushroom identification lessons, this book would be a welcome addition to the classroom or home library.
Title: It’s A Fungus Among Us: The Good, the Bad, & the Downright Scary
Author: Carla Billups & Dawn Cusick
Published by: MoonDance/The Quarto Group, 2017
Pages: 80, with tons of color photos
Suggested Age: Elementary (Lower), Elementary (Upper)
Recognition: A 2018 Outstanding Science Trade Book for Students: K-12 (National Science Teachers Association and the Children’s Book Council)