#STEM Friday #Kidlit Funky Fungi Grows on You


I just can’t contain my excitement about this awesome book:  Funky Fungi: 30 Activities for Exploring Molds, Mushrooms, Lichens, and More by Alisha Gabriel and Sue Heavenrich .

Why am I excited?

First of all, Funky Fungi is by one of my favorite publishers, Chicago Review Press.  They are leading experts at hands-on STEM books for kids.

Secondly, fungi are fascinating organisms, but are too often ignored. For a long time they got shoved into a drawer with plants and forgotten. It is great to see publishers and educators finally taking an interest in all the cool stuff they have to offer.

I’m also excited because the contents are fabulous. In addition to 30 hands-on activities you can do with inexpensive materials, topics range from what the different kinds of fungi to all their uses. I learned so much. Did you know people are making shoes and handbags from a leather-like product made of fungal mycelium?

My favorite part of the book is the series of sidebars called “From the Fungus Files.” Each features a fungus that has interesting (amazing!) attributes, like the charcoal-loving elf cup with spores that germinate after a fire and the lobster fungus that grows on other fungi!

Finally, Sue Heavenrich is one of my favorite authors and friends.

Let’s see what she has to say about the book .

An Interview With Co-Author Sue Heavenrich:

How did you get the inspiration for a book about fungi?

The book actually grew from a nature ramble at a Highlights Foundation workshop in Honesdale, PA where Alisha and I met. We spotted a mushroom growing and found out we had a shared an interest in fungi.  About ten years later, we started the book. See more about what we did at my blog, Archimedes Notebook.

Attending a workshop at Highlights Foundation is definitely on my bucket list, but back to Funky Fungi. Do you have a favorite section?

The section on insect zombies. Because: insects (of course!). I had seen zombified flies before, without really understanding what they were. Then, while working on an article for our county-wide weekly [paper], I met mycologist Kathie Hodge. She was working out the taxonomy for a newly discovered fungus that was infecting millipedes. We went on a fungus walk, and she showed me insects infected with fungi… and I asked her about the strange flies I had seen. Dead flies clinging to window screens, surrounded by a circle of white powder – zombies. Dead flies clinging to the tip-top of an onion stalk – probably zombies. I had a lot of fun learning more about entomopathogenic fungi [fungi that attack insects] and this summer am hoping that Entomophaga maimaiga will infect the millions of Spongy Moth (formerly Gypsy moth) larvae infesting our trees.

After writing the book, do you have a favorite fungus?

A favorite fungus? That’s like asking if I have a favorite insect … or book! Too hard to choose, but I will say that I like unusual fungi, like the orange staghorns that look like octopuses emerging from the soil, and the coral fungi, and earthballs that look more like leathery turtle eggs than a mushroom! And the dainty turkey tails I find on downed tree limbs – oh! and lichens! I really like lichens. You’ll find some of my faves over on my author Facebook page where I post funky fungi photos on Friday afternoons.

See a much more in depth interview with Sue at GROG blog.


Although the suggested reading age for Funky Fungi is 7-9, it is appropriate for middle grade and on up to adult. Educators will love it. Pull it out for lessons on classification, decomposition, or to accompany a hike in the woods. If you are interested in nature, you need to check out this book!

It seems redundant to have activities to accompany a book with 30 hands-on activities, but here’s a few more things to explore:

A previous post about fungi with activity suggestions as well as the posts in the fungi category.

Be sure to check our growing list of children’s books about fungi at Science Books for Kids

Publisher ‏ : ‎ Chicago Review Press (June 21, 2022)
Language ‏ : ‎ English
Paperback ‏ : ‎ 128 pages
ISBN-10 ‏ : ‎ 1641605774
ISBN-13 ‏ : ‎ 978-1641605779
Reading age ‏ : ‎ 7 – 9 years


Disclosure: This book was provided by the publisher. Also, I am an affiliate with Amazon so I can provide you with cover images and links to more information about books and products. As you probably are aware, if you click through the highlighted title link and purchase a product, I will receive a very small commission, at no extra cost to you. Any proceeds help defray the costs of hosting and maintaining this website.

Come visit the STEM Friday blog each week to find more great Science, Technology, Engineering and Math books.


  1. Sue Heavenrich

    Thanks for featuring FUNKY FUNGI on your blog today. I found some cool mushrooms growing out of a straw bale in my garden. They’re small and look like fairy ink caps carved out of glass. Full disclosure: that bale – well, half bale- has been sitting on the edge of the pumpkin patch waiting to be spread out as mulch. It was like an open invitation for a fungus party.

  2. Roberta

    Your newly-discovered mushrooms sound fascinating. It’s amazing where they will pop up sometimes.

    Funky Fungi is truly my new favorite book.

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