I used to be what is euphemistically termed a ‘reluctant reader’. My words at the time would have been more along the lines of “I hate reading! It’s boring!”. How’s that for a revelation? Not the sort of admission you’d expect from a children’s author. But it’s true. I spent early primary school, back in the 1970s, avoiding books.
Why? I think it was mostly because I didn’t like the stuff I was being given to read. The school readers we had to take home were dry and dull and they put me off even trying to find other material. But all that did eventually change.
Somewhere in mid-primary (and I can’t remember exactly when, as I’m now in my 40s and my memory is on the downhill slide :-)) a book club program was introduced. And we were expected to choose at least one book. The book I chose was Eleanor Cameron’s The Wonderful Flight to the Mushroom Planet. I can’t remember why I chose it. Maybe because it had ‘mushroom’ in the title and I’ve always liked mushrooms. But guess what? I liked it! In fact, I loved it! This was a bit of a revelation…
You see, it turned out that I didn’t dislike reading… rather it was simply a case of not having found the right material to interest me. But now I had found it. Science fiction! I went on to read the sequel, Stowaway to the Mushroom Planet, and then moved on to Jack Williamson’s Trapped in Space. It wasn’t long before I was reading Andre Norton, Robert A Heinlein, HG Wells, John Wyndham and John Christopher. Christopher’s Tripods trilogy had a huge impact on me, and these books remain favourites to this day. In fact, I recently re-read them and blogged about them.
But it’s the Mushroom Planet books that I am remembering today. I read them dozens of times as a kid. A huge part of the appeal was that the two main characters were just ordinary boys. They build their own spaceship and then with the help of a mysterious scientist named Mr Bass, they end up visiting the Mushroom Planet of the title. I spent ages fantasizing about making my own spaceship and having a similar journey. After all, if these two ordinary kids could do it, why couldn’t I? Since then, I’ve always been attracted the ‘ordinary person doing extraordinary things’ scenario.
I still have my copies of those two books — a little battered, but still in reasonable condition. I have never re-read them as an adult. I’ve been too scared… just in case they don’t live up to my nostalgic memories. But I will, one day, overcome that fear. Especially since I recently found out that there are another four book in the series — Mr. Bass’s Planetoid, A Mystery for Mr. Bass, Jewels from the Moon and The Meteor That Couldn’t Stay (this one is two short stories rather than a novel) and Time and Mr. Bass. This discovery has got me all excited. Of course, they are out of print… so it may be a while before I can track them down. But when I do, I’ll read the whole series… and then probably blog about it.
In the meantime, these first two Mushroom Planet books will remain on my bookshelf. And no matter what the eventual re-reading experience will be like, they will always have a special place in my heart.
George’s latest book is ‘Gamers’ Challenge’, sequel to the Chronos award-winning teen novel, ‘Gamers’ Quest’. George writes a bookish blog, Literary Clutter, a DVD blog, Viewing Clutter, and also has a dedicated website for the Gamers novels. All of this, and more, can be accessed via his author website.