Local Author New Children’s Book Focuses on Fungi | News

Local author, Sue Heavenrich’s newest book, coauthored with Alisha Gabriel, is all about fungi. Funky Fungi: 30 Activities for Exploring Molds, Mushrooms, Lichens, and More, goes well beyond pizza toppings, and is due out on June 21, by Chicago Review Press. This 128 page book is a delightful, educational book for kids seven and up, including adults, and is cleverly illustrated, laid out, and easy to navigate.

“We’re hoping our book will inspire kids to head outside and explore fungi,” Heavenrich said. “There is an entire kingdom of organisms that we are still learning about. Scientists have described and named around 140,000 species of fungi, but most mycologists believe that number represents only five percent of the total. ”

But don’t let all this scientific jargon fool you. This book explains and illustrates the diverse roles fungi play in the environment. From decomposers to plant partnerships and even how they’re used to clean up pollution, this book is full of fun and thought provoking activities for children to learn on their own, with their family, or even in the classroom. With chapters like: Is There a Fungus Among Us ?, Sorting out the Fungi, Fungi Hold the World Together, Fungi as Food, When Fungi Go Bad, and Putting Fungi to Work, there is a lot to discover about the world of Fungi that surrounds us. And with 30 activities to delve into, like making a FUNgus Journal, Dissect a Mushroom, Go on a Fungal Foray, Make a Spore Print, Design Your Own Fungus, Make Your Own Fungus-Fighting Mix, Grow a Mold Garden, or Bundle Dye with Fungi, there is plenty of action and craft to stir the enquiring minds.

“If some fungi cause itchy feet and human diseases, others provide the cures,” Heavenrich stated. “Fungi even play a role in crime scene investigations, helping forensic scientists determine who-done-it.”

According to Heavenrich, Funky Fungi highlights local connections, as well. Although not a picture book, this scientific, and well-illustrated book, will literally take you on location to places such as the Hawk Meadow Farm in Trumansburg, NY, where Steve and Anne Sierigk cultivate mushrooms on logs. The authors highlight the Warwick Mushroom Farm in Pennsylvania. And, they profile Dr. Kathie T. Hodge, a mycologist at Cornell University and director of Cornell Plant Pathology Herbarium (CUP).

A well-researched and detailed book, Heavenrich and Gabriel started working on Funky Fungi during the Covid pandemic. Heavenrich admits that the idea was planted years earlier, during a nature walk at a writing workshop where she and Gabriel stopped to photograph a mushroom. The two writers began talking about fungi, writing, and children’s books. When things shut down due to Covid, collaborating on a book made sense.

“I feel we bring complementary skill sets to the project,” Heavenrich stated. “I’m a biologist, and I taught high school science.”

Heavenrich shares hands-on science activities, and reviews STEM books on her blog, Archimedes Notebook, and for more than 20 years, she wrote a science column for Ithaca Child. She’s written half a dozen books, including the children’s picture book: 13 Ways to Eat a Fly, illustrated by David Clark; and Diet for a Changing Climate: Food for Thoughtwith co-author Christy Mihaly.

Gabriel, on the other hand, is an elementary music teacher and adjunct professor at Southwestern University. Not only has she used her writing skills to win four grants to benefit her students, but she has played flute and piccolo for video games – and even a TV commercial! Her books include Good Sports: Elliot Mack; Quarterback; and Silento: Breakout Rapper.

For those who want to get a sneak peek at what Heavenrich has planned in regards to her latest book’s release, check out her author Facebook page where she will post a fungus photo every Friday from now through the fall. Some photos will showcase lichens on a gravestone at Maple Grove cemetery in Candor, and even feature fungus captured by Gerri Wiley during a walk along Main Street in Owego. But don’t miss her Archimedes Notebook Blogspot, on June 20, when she’ll be hosting a “book birthday party.” Rumor has it there will be cake (or at least a photo of cake) with easy-to-make party favors.

For more information about the book you can visit Heavenrich’s website at www.sueheavenrich.comand her Facebook author pages at www.facebook.com/SueHeavenrichWriter. You can purchase the book at your local bookstore or online.

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