The Mush­room Fan Club

Elise Gravel, 56 pages, Drawn & Quar­terly, $19.95

Broken Pencil - - Book Reviews -

I love mush­rooms so much I have a copy of The Mush­rooms of On­tario, which is a very thick, ex­haus­tive book that iden­ti­fies just about ev­ery mush­room you can find in the prov­ince, and whether they’re poi­sonous, ed­i­ble, or not quite ei­ther. I like to eat mush­rooms, but what I re­ally like to do is go for walks in the woods and look at the mush­rooms that I pre­fer to leave un­touched. Some­times, I will try to iden­tify them by thumb­ing through Mush­rooms of On­tario. Some­times I won’t. Most of the time I’ll have a kid or two or three with me, and we’ll dis­cuss what name the mush­room should get and we’ll set­tle on some­thing like Goldie or Happy Happy or Bad Breath Bark Face.

Elise Gravel takes this whole ex­er­cise one step fur­ther by draw­ing some of the more pop­u­lar or spec­tac­u­lar mush­rooms found in east­ern North Amer­ica and giv­ing them cute eyes and mouths. Her draw­ings, as you can imag­ine, are some kind of cute. The ac­com­pa­ny­ing text is pretty sim­ple, since it is aimed as an in­tro­duc­tion to mush­room fan­dom for kids. The mush­rooms are the stars of this book — which is how it should be. I think it might have been bet­ter if Gravel had dis­pensed al­to­gether with the idea of the book hav­ing ed­u­ca­tional value for chil­dren, and just gone full out fan club on shrooms. Like if each page paid trib­ute to a dif­fer­ent amaz­ing mush­room and the whole thing came com­plete with a set of cards, hockey-style (col­lect them all!). As it is, the book doesn’t feel quite com­pre­hen­sive enough to be used as an ed­u­ca­tional tool for kids or adults, and it’s not quite ec­cen­tric and fan­club-y enough to be a cof­fee ta­ble cu­rio type book. That said, this is a fun book to look at and read (es­pe­cially with kids). Mush­room Fan Club and a hand­ful of chanterelles would be the near per­fect sum­mer thank you gift for the bud­ding for­ager fam­ily. (Hal Niedzviecki)

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