Tag: Sue Heavenrich

#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.

#STEM Friday #Kidlit 13 Ways to Eat a Fly


Today’s featured title, 13 Ways to Eat a Fly by Sue Heavenrich and illustrated by David Clark, just came out last week and already there’s quite a buzz about it. Let’s find out why.

This fabulous picture book puts both the S (science) and the M (math) in STEAM. And a bunch of silly A (art), too.

The story starts with a cloud of thirteen different kinds of flies.

Big flies,
small flies,
fat flies,
Yum! These flies are someone’s dinner.

As they travel through the book, the flies meet one untimely end after another as the reader learns about all the living things that rely on flies for their survival.

13 Ways to Eat a Fly has tidbits for everyone. The youngest readers will enjoy counting down the numbers. Slightly older readers will enjoy the gross and silly aspects, such as the absolutely hilarious chart of the edible parts of a fly along with a graphic listing the nutritional facts. Budding entomologists will soak up all the science, including the common and family names of each of the flies, interesting details about the predators, and an introduction to food chains. Educators will enjoy two pages of suggested books and websites in the back matter, so helpful for digging deeper.

Not sure you really want to read about icky flies? Don’t worry, by the time you’re done, you will be rooting for them!

Ever wondered how an author gets an idea for a book? You’re in luck. This week I talked with author Sue Heavenrich by phone. Be a fly on the wall for our conversation!

You’ve written a book about insects for children. Were you interested in critters when you were young?

When I was a kid, I kept a notebook of organisms – sort of like a “life 
list” birders keep, but with animals and plants that I got to know. I
 loved to make lists: all of the kinds of squirrels found at the Grand
 Canyon; the different kinds of trees at the Girl Scout camp; what the
 black widow spider living in my window ate for breakfast (don’t tell my
 mom – she still does not know about that spider!) So I am thinking it’s 
not a surprise that I would begin to write a book about flies by making
 a list of flies seen in and around my garden.

That is so cool. Keeping a notebook and making lists are great tools for learning. Where did it take you?

I got my master’s degree in biology working on insect behavior studies with Michael Breed at U of CO, Boulder. Two of the papers I published (My name was Susan K. Smith at the time):

  1.  In Animal Behaviour
  2.  In Physiological Entomology

It is fascinating that you studied cockroaches (I’ll have to tell you my cockroach stories some time.) Right now, I’d love to hear more about the garden you mentioned.

I have a vegetable garden. It is not so much about growing food, but it is a place to observe and learn about other living things. Definitely about the woodchucks, chipmunks, and beetles!

A few years ago I got involved with the  Great Sunflower Project, a citizen science study facilitated by Gretchen (LeBuhn). We grew sunflowers and counted the bees and other pollinators that visited. As a result, I got into gardening for bugs.

I grow plants with the aim to attract native insects and my yard has dandelions, violets, buttercups, etc. I enjoy looking closely at the insects that visit. I am especially fond of bumble bees, which are the teddy bears of the bee world.

Once I found an insect that looked like a hornet, but something was not quite right. It had two wings and the antennae looked wrong for a wasp. Turns out it was a fly that mimicked a hornet. That made me start thinking about the diversity of flies, and you guessed it, eventually led to the book.

We are thankful for that fly!
Besides in the garden, where else can we find you?

I blog about science and STEAM books at Archimedes Notebook
(archimedesnotebook.blogspot.com) and folks can visit me at my website www.sueheavenrich.com

Thank you so much for your insights and sharing your interest in flies. Maybe some day we will all have gardens for flies.

Activity Suggestion:

Start a fly or insect notebook like Sue did. This can be a paper notebook or if you are older and have a phone, you can use apps like iNaturalist.

Keep records of the flies you see. Make a list of common and scientific names. Find out more about each type of fly in books or websites like the ones listed in the book.

If you like to draw, add illustrations to your notebooks. Drawing requires close and accurate observations. It is a useful skill. You can strive for scientific accuracy and have fun like David Clark did.

If you have a camera, you might want to take photographs. I keep photographic records of the flies I see around my yard in this blog.

Think flies are bland and boring and only eat garbage? Check these out!

Bottle Flies – Family Calliphoridae (prev. post)

Fun fact:  Bottle flies pollinate specialized carrion flowers like Stapelia (previous post).

Long-legged flies (Dolichopodidae)

Fun fact:  The adult flies are beneficial in the garden because they are predators of other small insects like aphids and leafhoppers, as well as spider mites (previous post).

Crane flies (Tipulidae)

Fun fact:  Although they may superficially look like giant mosquitoes, crane flies in a completely different family. They are fragile insects, not harmful in any way (previous post).

Bee Flies (Bombyliidae)

Fun fact:  Like bees, bee flies are pollinators. They use their long mouthparts to suck up nectar from flowers (previous post).

Hover or Flower Flies (Syrphidae)

Fun fact:  Adult flower flies pollinate flowers and the larvae eat aphids. Win-win!

Featured in the book:  Mediterranean fruit fly (Tephritidae)

(Photograph by Alvesgaspar at Wikimedia)

Mediterranean fruit flies are potentially invasive pests. Some states, particularly California, have extensive monitoring programs. If even a single fly is found, they spring into action to prevent it from taking hold.

Fruit flies (Drosphilidae)

Can you tell this regular fruit fly from the Mediterranean one above? Hint:  Flies in the family Tephritidae are also sometimes called “picture-winged” flies. Let us know the differences you see in the comments.

This family of fruit flies are not in the book, but are important. The study of fruit flies has led to incredible scientific advancements in the fields of genetics and embryology.

Fun fact:  Fruit fly larvae consume fruit that is rotting or fermenting. They eat the fungi/yeasts in decaying fruit as an important source of protein ( Nature article, previous post, previous post with life cycle).

So, do you think flies are cool now?

Reading age : 4 – 8 years
Publisher : Charlesbridge (February 16, 2021)
ISBN-10 : 1580898904
ISBN-13 : 978-1580898904

Disclosure: Book is my personal copy. 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.

#Kidlit for STEM Friday: Diet for a Changing Climate

Today we have a new STEM title that is sure to elicit a variety of reactions. Before we start, however, I should disclose that I’ve blogged with one of the authors, Sue Heavenrich, at STEM Friday blog for a number of years. Sue writes about science at Archimedes Notebook.


Let’s take a look at the young adult book (grades 8 through 12)  Diet for a Changing Climate: Food for Thought by Christy Mihaly and Sue Heavenrich.

We all know the food we eat can determine our health, but what about change the health of our planet? Mihaly and Heavenrich make a case that eating certain plants and animals — a few that are not normally on the menu — might do just that.

The authors start by revealing some of the plants we think of as weeds were brought to North America from Europe on purpose as food and/or herbal remedies. Dandelions and purslane, for example, are thought to have been been imported and grown intentionally before they escaped from gardens and were labeled as weeds.

Perhaps it is time to turn back the clock and consider eating them again. What could be more local than eating plants that grow readily in almost any yard? To entice the reader to try them, the authors offer recipes, such as for dandelion flower pancakes.

The next step is to consider eating some of the species that have become invasive, for example Asian carp or garlic mustard, which is a weed. They also suggest eating insects and other invertebrates as alternative protein sources.

The authors have thought this through because they offer plenty of cautions. For example, people who are allergic to shellfish may also be allergic to insects. Although kudsu is edible, the plant is a three-leaved vine that closely resembles and grows in the same locales as poison ivy. The ability to identify these plants and animals accurately is critical.

The book has a modern look sure to entice young people. The art director writes about decisions about the cover design on the Lerner blog, which might interest future artists. Inside a number of color stock photographs catch the eye.

Diet for a Changing Planet is definitely “Food for Thought.” Given that some young people think meals arise spontaneously and have trouble telling a turnip from a red onion in the grocery store (true story), the idea of foraging for food outdoors and preparing it themselves may be a hard sell. Even so, reading this book may plant some seeds of ideas that will come to fruition later on.

Suggested Activities:

(Edited 10/14/2018)

1. Check out some weed and bug recipes online

(Garlic mustard)

Caution: According to The New York Times, garlic mustard does have traces of cyanide and they recommend limiting consumption and/or blanching the leaves.

2. Foraging for survival

Did you ever read My Side of the Mountain by Jean Craighead George? It’s about a boy who goes to live in the Catskill Mountains for a year. He learns how to forage for food in order to survive.

Even if you aren’t going to run away from civilization, knowing what is edible in your environment is a good idea. If you become lost in the wilderness, being able to identify sources of food can keep you alive until help arrives.

Research, make a plan, and list what foods you would collect and eat if you are ever lost. Note:  hiking and hunting guides often include information about survival foods.

Curious about how the book came about? Check out Writing as a Team at GROG.

Library Binding: 128 pages
Publisher: Twenty First Century Books (August 1, 2018)
ISBN-10: 1512481211
ISBN-13: 978-1512481211

Disclosure:  Digital ARC was supplied for review via NetGalley. 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.