The Mushroom Planet - Mr. Bass Books
by Eleanor Cameron

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Mushroom Planet

This children's series is set in a beach community in California, as well as on a tiny, habitable moon, "Basidium", in an invisible orbit 50,000 miles from Earth. The "Mushroom Planet," visited by the protagonists David and Chuck, is covered in various types of mushrooms and is populated by little green people.

Eleanor Cameron was born in Winnipeg, Manitoba in Canada on March 23, 1912. Her family moved to South Charleston, Ohio when she was three years old, and then to Berkeley, California when she was six] A few years later, her parents divorced. At age 16, she moved with her mother and stepfather to Los Angeles. Cameron studied at UCLA and the Art Center School of Los Angeles. She joined the Los Angeles Public Library in 1930 and later worked as a research librarian for the Los Angeles Board of Education and two different advertising companies. She married Ian Cameron, a printmaker and publisher, in 1934 and the couple had a son, David, in 1944.

Cameron's first published book, The Unheard Music (1950), was partially based on her experience as a librarian and was positively received by critics, though it didn't sell particularly well. Cameron did not turn to writing children's books until eight-year-old David asked her to write a space story featuring him as the main character. That book, The Wonderful Flight to the Mushroom Planet (1954), proved to be very popular, spawning four sequels and two short stories over the following 13 years.

With the success of the Mushroom Planet books, Cameron focused on writing for children. Between 1959 and 1988 she produced 12 additional children's novels, including The Court of the Stone Children (1973) and the semi-autobiographical five book Julia Redfern series (1971-1988).

In addition to her fiction work, Cameron wrote two books of criticism and reflection on children's literature. The first, The Green and Burning Tree, was released in 1969 and led an increased profile for Cameron in the world of children's literature. Throughout the 1970s, 1980s, and early 1990s Cameron worked as a traveling speaker and contributor to publications such as The Horn Book Magazine, Wilson Library Bulletin, and Children's Literature in Education. She was also a member of the founding editorial board for the children's magazine Cricket, which debuted in 1973. Her second book of essays, The Seed and the Vision: On the Writing and Appreciation of Children's Books, came out in 1993. It is her final published book.

From late 1967 until her death Cameron made her home in Pebble Beach, California. She died in hospice in Monterey, California on October 11, 1996 at the age of 84

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1: The Wonderful Flight to the Mushroom Planet - 1954
Mushroom Planet Illustrator: Robert Henneberger
Publisher: Little, Brown and Company (Atlantic Monthly Press)
Publication Date: September 1954
Pages: 214
Other editions:
  • Viaje Maravilloso Al Planeta de los Hongos (1965), Spanish language edition
  • Scholastic (1966), paperback
  • Joy Street / Little, Brown (1988), paperback; cover by Peter Sís
  • Little, Brown (1998); cover by Kevin Hawkes
  • Little, Brown (2003); cover by Steve Vance

When two boys find an ad in a newspaper asking for two young boys to build a spaceship, they quickly construct one out of old tin and scrap wood, and bring it to the advertiser. This man is the mysterious Mr. Tyco Bass, an inventor and scientist. Using his marvelous stroboscopic polarizing filter he shows the boys a previously undetected satellite of the Earth, which he calls Basidium-X. He refits their spaceship, giving them some special fuel he invented to power it, and tells them to fly to the mushroom planet (after getting their parents' permission). He warns them that their trip will only be successful if they bring a mascot.

When it is time for launch, they grab David's hen, Mrs. Pennyfeather, at the last moment for a mascot, and rocket into space. They find the planet of Basidium to be a small, verdant world covered in soft moss and tree-size mushrooms. They quickly meet some residents of the mushroom planet, small men with large heads and slightly green skin, of the same people as the mysterious Mr. Bass. They tell the boys that their planet has had a crisis and that everyone is slowly dying of a mysterious sickness. The boys meet up with the king of the planet, the Great Ta, and end up solving the natives' problem, before returning to Earth.

Mushroom Planet

2: Stowaway to the Mushroom Planet - 1956
Illustrator: Robert Henneberger
Publisher: Little, Brown and Company
Pages: 226

The story opens with Theo Bass, the cousin of Tyco Bass, coming to Pacific Grove, California, and visiting the two boys (Chuck and David) from the first book. He has been a traveler around the world for many years, and when he finds out about the mushroom planet, he decides to rebuild the boys' lost spaceship and return to what he knows is his ancestral home.

Earlier, the boys had written a letter to a nearby university professor inviting him to come and give a lecture to their young astronomers' society. The letter arrives while the professor is away and is received by his ambitious young assistant, who comes to Pacific Grove to give the lecture in the professor's stead.

The young assistant, Horatio Peabody, ends up going to the Mushroom Planet as a stowaway, and causing quite a bit of trouble there. This book is much more topical than the last one was, as Peabody insists that the Mushroom Planet must be explored and exploited "for the good of science" - as well as for his own personal glory. Mr. Peabody ends up committing an act of sacrilege on the Mushroom Planet that almost gets everyone involved killed, and in general annoys and scares all. However, by the end of the book, Horatio Peabody learns his lesson about the arrogance of his scientific beliefs, and the situation, overall, returns to equilibrium until the next book. Mushroom Planet

3: Mr. Bass's Planetoid - 1958
Illustrator: Louis Darling
Publisher: Little, Brown and Company
Pages: 227

Prewytt Brumblydge, inventor of the Brumblitron, must be found in order to disable the device before it destroys the Earth. This is a job for Mr. Bass, but he has disappeared, so the boys pore over his notebook for clues and go spacefaring to find Brumblydge. This time, instead of journeying to Basidium, they fly to an airless rock named Lepton that orbits 1,000 miles above the Earth's surface.

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Mushroom Planet

4: A Mystery for Mr. Bass - 1960
Illustrator: Leonard Shortall
Publisher: Little, Brown and Company
Pages: 229

After a record-breaking storm, David and Chuck discover half-million-year-old fossils on the cliffs where no such bones should be, prompting Tyco Bass to reveal some of the history and customs of the Mycetians, the Mushroom People of Earth. After Tyco's departure, the boys' discovery of the ailing Prewytt Brumblydge's unexpected Mycetian connections leads them to attempt a new, unscheduled trip to Basidium.

Mushroom Planet

5: Jewels from the Moon and The Meteor That Couldn't Stay - 1964
Illustrator: Vic Dowd
Publisher: American Book Company
Pages: 65

This volume is composed of two short stories. In the first, "Jewels from the Moon", Chuck Masterson and David Topman meet a mysterious but kindly old lady (a Mycetian like Mr. Bass) who takes them on a spectacular dream journey. In the second story, "The Meteor That Couldn't Stay", David accompanies Prewytt Brumblydge (a prominent character in Mr. Bass's Planetoid and A Mystery for Mr. Bass on an expedition to recover portions of a brumblium meteorite.

This was designed as a school reading book and was distributed in that manner by the American Book Company. The book is 64 pages long and features comprehension, discussion, and vocabulary questions after each story.

Mushroom Planet

6: Time and Mr. Bass - 1967
Illustrator: Fred H. Meise
Publisher: Little, Brown and Company
Pages: 247

Tyco Bass has been a close friend to Chuck Masterson and David Topman ever since they built their space ship for a journey to the Mushroom Planet. Now Mr. Bass needs their help in a battle against time and the forces of evil that threaten the Mycetians, Mr. Bass and, finally, David. Upon their arrival in the mountains of Wales for a meeting of the secret Mycetian League, Mr. Bass and the boys discover that the ancient Necklace of Ta has been stolen. Also missing is the Thirteenth Scroll, believed to relate the history of the Mycetians. These must be found, for without the necklace, whose strange stones are carved in an unknown language, Mr. Bass cannot continue his effort to translate the Scroll. And without the secret of the Scroll, the evil power that has hounded the Mycetians for centuries cannot be defeated. Chuck and David must use their wits as never before in a search which takes them from a joyous celebration to a terrifying test of endurance involving Time itself.