Deep Outside SFFH - Science Fiction, Fantasy, and Horror

back to main contents page of A. L. Sirois Outside in: Reviews at Deep Outside SFFH

Eleanor Cameron
Little, Brown paperback
195 pages
Originally published 1954
Edition cover art by Peter Sis

Buy the book!

"WANTED (read the small notice, printed - oddly - in green): A small space ship, about eight feet long,built by a boy, or by two boys, between the ages of eight and eleven...."

So begins one of the most delightful of all children's space adventures. After dinner one night, young David Topman is reading (tellingly) Dr. Doolittle in the Moon, while his father peruses the evening paper and discovers the strange green want-ad. Of course it fires David's imagination, and before he goes to sleep that night he has sketched a spaceship into his notebook. The very next day he sets out to build it, with the help of his friend Chuck Masterson.

Times may have changed, and children today are, no doubt, more sophisticated than we were back in the day, but I am here to tell you that this book still has the power to charm a child and weave its magic spell even around an adult. I know this because last night I finished reading The Wonderful Flight to the Mushroom Planet to my eight-year-old daughter, and today she brought home the second book in the series, Stowaway to the Mushroom Planet, from her school library.

This tells you two things, one of which I already made clear: kids love these books. The second thing is, these books are still being bought and read by modern teachers and librarians. That's because they're good books, with great heart and great soul.

The later Eleanor Cameron wrote a number of well-received books for children, most of which are still in print. Most of them have a strong thread of the fantastic running through them, but the Mushroom Planet books are what have really put her on the children's literature map. Her other books seem primarily aimed at girls, but oddly enough there are very few females characters in the Mushroom Planet series.

I'd bet a doughnut that more than one person reading this review got his or her start in science fiction with a Mushroom Planet book. I didn't, quite, but they were among the first ones I read when I was a boy. And I still like 'em! I like David Topman and Chuck Masterson; I like funny little Tyco M. Bass and his strange house on Thallo Street in Pacific Grove, California. I like the misty, mysterious Mushroom Planet and its lordly ruler, the Great Ta. I like these simple little tales, half science-fiction, half fantasy.

These stories, you see, are the stuff of dreams, of fantasy and wish-fulfillment. David and Chuck are simple boys, really, and Cameron paints them with loving strokes. They live in a world where people get along. Maybe it's naïve, maybe it's simplistic, but I think it's a world that children understand and, before they lose their innocence, believe in. It's a world where a little planet can be circling Earth, all unseen, 50,000 miles away: a little planet just the right size for two adventuresome boys back in the days before Sputnik flew, back before Apollo and the Internet, Pokemon and INXS.

It's a world where two boys can make a spaceship out of sheet metal and old boat ribs, where a strange little man named Tyco Bass can put a rocket motor into it in the wink of an eye and coat its surface with "resinoid silicon," rendering it able to withstand the harsh environment of outer space.

It's a world where two boys can fly away into space and be back before morning, having saved an entire race of funny little people in the meantime by bringing them - well, why give it away?

This is a world that adults may find silly and childish - but, as I say, it's a world that children know very well, because it's a world of possibilities and endless excitement, where no one will say "It can't be done," or "That's impossible!" to a young person.

And that, my friends, is why the Mushroom Planet books are still with us, and will be with us for the foreseeable future. So, if on your holiday list there's a child who loves to read, you could do worse than to schlep on down to your local independent book seller and snag a copy of The Wonderful Flight to the Mushroom Planet. In the tradition of Rusty's Spaceship, the Zip-Zip books, even the Miss Pickerell books, the Mushroom Planet is a place that you and your child can visit together - and you might even want to sneak off there one night all by yourself, for a solitary stroll under the towering mushrooms, where you may perhaps come upon little Mr. Bass making a new entry in his notebook titled Random Jottings, or Chuck and David on another adventure, or even the Great Ta as he paces along in the greenish mist with his two silly advisors, Mebe and Oru, arguing at his side. Then you'll know that life still holds a little magic.

Buy the book!


click for top of page

Content Copyright © A. L. Sirois 1998-2007 All Rights Reserved.

Website Copyright John T. Cullen as indicated on this label. Review content copyright A. L. Sirois as indicated above