Saturday, October 25, 2014

Scholastic Fest: #3, The Wonderful Flight to the Mushroom Planet

  • Title: The Wonderful Flight to the Mushroom Planet
  • Author: Eleanor Cameron (1912–1996)
  • Illustrator: Robert Henneberger
  • Publisher: Scholastic Book Services
  • Year: First printing, September 1966
  • Back-cover text:
    "Chuck and David gasped. There, in the telescope, a tiny greenish dot appeared, shining through the vast black of outer space.

    "The mysterious little man spoke:

    "'I should like you two boys to set off this very night for the Mushroom Planet!'

    "'Tonight?' repeated Chuck faintly.

    "'But, how...' David began.

    "How, indeed, could they ever hope to reach that pale and ghostly moon. No other earth dwellers even knew it existed!"
  • Notes: OK, readers. Things are getting serious now, as we barrel into the Top Three of Scholastic Fest! ... Or perhaps, not so serious. ... This is the wonderfully silly and trippy cover to the 1966 Scholastic paperback edition of The Wonderful Flight to the Mushroom Planet, a much-beloved and much-reprinted book by Eleanor Cameron. How beloved? It has a 4.6-star rating with more than 110 reviews on Amazon. And here is a gallery with the covers of some of the other editions that have been printed over the years...

    I think I like the Scholastic version best. Interestingly, the title page of this book states: "Drawings adapted from original illustrations by Robert Henneberger." That's an odd thing to say. Were his illustrations cropped? Were pieces of them cut out and moved around to form new Franken-illustrations? I believe that the illustration in the upper-left corner of the gallery that I posted is the original cover illustration from 1954. There are certainly some similarities between that cover and the Scholastic cover. Were the boys removed in favor of more prominent and goofy Little Green Men? More importantly, I cannot find any biographical information about illustrator Robert Henneberger. Even his Scholastic page is sadly blank. This needs to be rectified. Does anyone out there have any information on Henneberger? ... The Wonderful Flight to the Mushroom Planet author Cameron, meanwhile, was born in Canada but lived most of her life in the United States. Originally a librarian, she did not start writing children's books until her eight-year-old son, David, asked her to write an outer space story with him as the main character. This is that book. It was followed by four sequels. ... The plot of the book involves a tiny moon (not actually a planet) called Basidium that is just 50,000 miles from Earth. (The moon is about 225,000 miles from Earth, by comparison.) The plot also involves a chicken.1 ... Cameron also published an award-winning book titled The Court of the Stone Children in 1973, but her bigger "claim to fame" during that time might have involved her criticism of Roald Dahl's Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. Here's an excerpt from Wikipedia:
    In a the first of a three part essay titled "McLuhan, Youth, and Literature", Cameron labeled Charlie "one of the most tasteless books ever written for children," finding it to be "sadistic" and "phony." She was especially chagrined at its use as a classroom read-aloud. Dahl replied in the February 1973 issue of Horn Book. He wrote that Cameron was entitled to her opinion about his book, but he felt that she had attacked his character as well. He also scoffed at her recommendation that teachers find better literature to share with their students: "I would dearly like to see Ms. Cameron trying to read Little Women, or Robinson Crusoe for that matter to a class of today's children. This lady is completely out of touch with reality. She would be howled out of the classroom."

1. According to a Google search, prior to the publication of this post:

No results found for "The plot also involves a chicken.".


1 comment:

  1. Great write-up! I have written a biography of Eleanor Cameron due to be published this fall. I also have a Cameron website:, for those interested in more information about her and the Mushroom Planet.

    I ran into the same blanks trying to research Henneberger. There's just nothing out there. But I did learn that he decided not to illustrate the final three Mushroom Planet books because he became involved with a religion that condemned the idea of space exploration.