Saturday, April 23, 2022

The Wonderful Flight to the Mushroom Planet by Eleanor Cameron #1954Club

Title: The Wonderful Flight to the Mushroom Planet
Author: Eleanor Cameron
Publication: Little, Brown & Company, hardcover, 1954
Genre: Juvenile fantasy
Setting: 20th century California
This review is for the #1954Club, hosted by StuckinaBook and Kaggsy’s Bookish Ramblings, in which bloggers are invited to read and review books that were published in a chosen year.

Description: David Topman is reading Dr. Doolittle in the Moon when his father sees a notice in the newspaper:
WANTED: A small space ship about eight feet long, built by a boy or two boys, between the ages of eight and eleven. The ship should be sturdy and well made, and should be of materials found at hand. Nothing need be bought. No adult should be consulted as to its plan or method of construction. An adventure and a chance to do a good deed await the boys who build the best space ship. Please bring your ship as soon as possible to Mr. Tyco M. Bass, 5 Thallo Street, Pacific Grove, California.
Dr. Topman says it must be a joke but David is sure he can design a space ship and build it with his friend Chuck during their spring vacation. Chuck is game and, once they get started, the actual construction is easier than either expected. Dramatically, they wheel the space ship to Thallo Street, where the unusual Mr. Bass is delighted to see them. He explains that he is a slightly different species, from a small planet only 50,000 miles away called Basidium, which is inhabited by Mushroom folk like himself. He believes his kin are facing great danger and he wants the boys to use the space ship to reach and assist them. David and Chuck’s adventure, from the crafting of the space ship to their improbable trip to Basidium, is entertaining and satisfying.
My Impression: The Wonderful Flight to the Mushroom Planet is considered one of the most beloved children's science fiction novels of all time, and Cameron (1912-1996) wrote four subsequent titles in this series, which are quite collectible today. But this is the first time it really sunk in to me that the children reading it in 1954 and for some time thereafter could not have been sure man would ever walk on the moon. David’s father tells his son space exploration is not possible, “not for ten or twenty years yet, or maybe even fifty. Might be something to look forward to, though.” However, by the time I read this book, man had walked on the moon, so why shouldn’t David and Chuck fly a space ship of their own? It wasn’t as completely improbable to me as it was to that previous generation.

Eleanor Cameron’s parents were English but she was born in Canada and grew up in Berkeley, California. Cameron was a champion of children’s books her whole life and was very much influenced by Arthurian legend and fairy tales she read as a child. The Mushroom Planet books were written for her son David, who asked for a space story with magic. I enjoyed the whole series but my favorite of her books is The Court of the Stone Children (1973) which won the National Book Award. It is a timeslip about a lonely teen who plays an imaginary game in the courtyard of a San Francisco museum and starts seeing a mysterious beautiful girl. Coincidentally, Cameron was a huge fan of the Green Knowe books, which she read as an adult and I just reviewed. She corresponded with L.M. Boston and even visited her at the actual Green Knowe, The Manor at Hemingford Grey in Cambridgeshire, England, where I hope to go in June.
Source: Library (I think I lent my personal copy to a nephew)


Unknown said...

I loved this book and the sequels when I was a child, and have reread with pleasure as an adult. Many thanks for the reminder.

Jerri C

Charlotte said...

completely agree that Court of the Stone Children is her best!

Lark said...

I love Cameron's Court of the Stone Children. But this science fiction book sounds like a lot of fun, too. :)

Lory said...

I never read the Mushroom Planet books but I did read Cameron's book about writing for children (The Green and Burning Tree) and she refers to them a lot. They were important for her as a writer and were very popular and well loved. I preferred the books set on Earth -- Court of the Stone Children, of course, which is a lovely sort of magical-realist book before there was such a thing, and I also loved A Room Made of Windows. Both very much enhanced by the beautiful cover art by Trina Schart Hyman. Her covers always predisposed me to love the books within (and there were a lot of good ones.)

Simon T (Stuckinabook) said...

I haven't heard of this - but I love that thought of 1954 children thinking of walking on the moon as an impossibility. 1954 does seem to have been a heyday for children's literature.

Jeannike said...

Thank you for the introduction to these two authors. I just bought hard cover copies of books that you recommended: a Lucy Boston book and three by Eleanor Cameron.

Jeanne said...

This is my husband's favorite childhood book.

Mallika@ LiteraryPotpourri said...

Sounds great fun. I'd never come across these and Stone Children was something I only learnt about recently as well. Thanks for reviewing it!

K. Harris said...

I loved her books growing up and a little later found Beyond Silence, which I also enjoyed.

kaggsysbookishramblings said...

Some wonderful children's writing from 1954 - I had never heard of this so thank you!

Deniz Bevan said...

Ooh, I don't know this book! I've read her A Room Made of Windows and really liked it. I ought to read more of her books!