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Monday, April 7, 2008

Just add four drops of atomic tritetramethylbenzacarbonethylene...

Recommended: The Wonderful Flight to the Mushroom Planet (Eleanor Cameron)

I am-let's be honest-still a fairly young person. True, I remember growing up from a little troll-ling into an honest and (one hopes) respected bridgekeeper, but the slower changes of growing older I know little about. Aging, to me, is a slight expansion of the waistline and a feeling of goosebumps as my scalp sheds its natural insulation.

For me, one of the most notable aspects of aging is being able to look back upon books I read as a child with a richer and deeper perspective. Unfortunately, that look backwards is often bittersweet. I recall the charm and joy of much-loved works, but I am put off by the simplicity of the story.

The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, for example, is one of these stories which is difficult to read again and again as an adult. It's a wonderful story, but it's just too simple to enjoy completely as an adult. A few bits and pieces are visible to me now that were obscure as a child: the overdone religious symbolism for one, and (more amusingly) the sexual innuendo (quite eyebrow-raising, really).

But I do enjoy going back to the stories I enjoyed as a child - that clich├ęd trip down memory lane. One story I seem to track down every ten years or so is The Wonderful Flight to the Mushroom Planet. As I've mentioned before, I enjoy the stereotypical 1950's-style science-fiction, space-meets-suburbia, with be-apron-ed moms and pipe-smoking dads and clean-cut boys causing all sorts of ruckus in the Junior Rocketeers. (The gender stereotypes are a bit much to swallow, but I enjoy the old sci-fi.)

The Wonderful Flight to the Mushroom Planet is certainly not a Heinlein story, but it's in a similar style. David and Chuck (Chuck!) are fast suburban friends who answer the following advertisement:


Wanted. A small space ship about eight feet long, built by a boy, or by two boys, between the ages of eight and eleven. The ship should be made of materials at hand. An adventure and a chance to do a good deed await the boys who built the best space ship. Please bring your ship as soon as possible to Mr. Tyco M. Bass, 5 Thallo Street, Pacific Grove, California.



So naturally, the intrepid children hammer together a space ship and drag it to the observatory of the mysterious Mr. Tycho Bass. I'm afraid it sounds creepy when I phrase it like that, but really this is a harmless story of a space adventure and, yes, a very good deed. It's the originality of the character of Tycho that I remember so well, and I hope you'll enjoy the character as well.

I'm sure you can find the story in your local library. The series continues: Stowaway to the Mushroom Planet, Mr. Bass's Planetoid, A Mystery for Mr. Bass, and Time and Mr. Bass.

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