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December 2006

Mushrooms: A Nature Digression, with Photos

As a nature-loving child, I tested the edibility of many things in our suburban yard: blades of grass, pine needles, clover, spring onions. Only a few items, like honeysuckle and wood sorrel, merited sampling more than once. One plant I never tried in situ, though, was a mushroom. Ooh, too dangerous. It might be poisonous. Well, in theory, that could change (though I am beyond my yard-eating days) because I now own the new North American Mushrooms: A Field Guide to Edible and Inedible Fungi, by Dr. Orson K. Miller and Hope H. Miller.

Img_0054Here in New England we've had a mild and somewhat rainy fall, and lots of mushroom have sprung up.  What a good project for Junior (who's 7) and me, I thought: mushroom i.d. He warmed to the idea, especially when allowed to use the new camera. (See left-hand photo. Not bad, eh? You can click on all the pics to enlarge them.) As it turns out, mushroom identification is kind of complicated. Our guide features wonderful photography,  but it's difficult to sort out some of the terminology. "Lamellae adnate, distant, white." Thank goodness there's a glossary.

But other parts of the book make for entertaining reading; each mushroom is captioned with its edible quotient from "deadly poisonous" to "poisonous, hallucinogenic" to "edible with caution" to "edibility unknown" and mImg_0062ore. This kind at right, Stereum ostrea, is rated "inedible," but then again I never even considered biting our woodpile.

Some terms you can guess the meaning of pretty easily. Mushrooms that grow in groups are called "gregarious." Those yellow ones (er, Collybia arcervata?) at the beginning of this post are gregarious. I also like the authors' comments for each entry. About the poisonous Tricholoma inamoenum, they say, "Odor strong of coal gas or tar. Taste disagreeable." Definitely one to cross off the hors-d'oeuvres  list.

Img_0070To fully i.d. a mushroom, you need to take a spore print. That's easy. You remove the mushroom's stem (or stipe, as we mycologists say) and put the cap (a.k.a, the pileus) on white bond paper, and keep it in a humid place like a Baggie overnight. The book tellsImg_0079 you exactly how to do it. The mushroom on the left, which was growing in a rotting log, makes a spore print like this, on the right.

Isn't that cool? The spore print is a deep, rich brown, as you can see. Junior and I were good at making the spore prints. We're not so good at narrowing down exactly which North American mushroom in the 584-page guide this is. It may be the edible Austroboletus betula, but may doesn't quite cut it if you're thinking of having it for dinner. Since I am the only one in my house who eats mushrooms anyway, I went with an old reliable, one easily identified by its markings.  It does not appear in North American Mushrooms, but surely it's safe to eat.



Mid-Week Coffee Break

Some fun places to visit this Wednesday morning:

The Edge of the Forest, November 2006

The November issue of The Edge of the Forest, the online monthly magazine about children's literature, is up and ready. You'll find a bounty of good reading, including

Eustace Tilley Looks at Picture Books

Elizabeth Kolbert reviews picture books in the December 4th edition of The New Yorker, out on the newsstand and online now. She considers Olivia Forms a Band, Moon Plane, Probuditi, Flotsam, Not a Box, and a number of other titles. I haven't read the whole piece yet, but thanks to Pooja Makhijani for alerting me. By the way, if you missed New Yorker cartoonist Roz Chast's two-page spread on manga last week, do look for the issue dated Nov 27th. Very funny.

Latter Day Pooters, Unite!

For a snide summary of a literary dust-up in Great Britian, I send you to Rachel Cooke's essay "Deliver us from these latter-day Pooters," in the Guardian. The snark factor makes it highly entertaining, with Cooke heaving insults at book blogs right and left. Rachel Cooke, a non-Pooter* herself, writes, " much of the stuff you read in the so-called blogosphere is so awful: untrustworthy, banal and, worst of all, badly written."

* In need of a Pooter tutorial, I turned to Wikipedia and its entry for the comic novel Diary of a Nobody, by George Grossmith.

With thanks to Mental Multivitamin for the link to the Guardian piece.

Girls & Comics

Girls read comic books? Do tell. Or as Read Roger says about a certain comic-book honcho's comments, "News Flash: Girls Are Smart." I had to laugh. I'm talking about an article in today's New York Times on girls and comics, specifically DC Comics' upcoming new line, Minx. Cecil Castellucci (one of the YA authors gone wild at NCTE) gets a prominent mention for her new graphic novel, The P.L.A.I.N. Janes.

Poetry Friday: "Onions"

With Thanksgiving still in mind, I chose William Matthews' "Onions" as today's selection. It's not a kid's poem but more of a cook's poem. I love the first couple of lines, "How easily happiness begins by/dicing onions. A sweet lump of butter..." You can find the whole thing at the Poetry Foundation's site. There's lots to admire here; from a "tumble of onions," Matthews goes deeper,  into something much more elemental.

Liz B. at A Chair, A Fireplace and A Tea Cozy has the roundup of everyone participating in Poetry Friday today. Go visit and hang out. Read Liz's posts about Thanksgiving books and the "Jingle Dancer" puppet show, too. It's Friday, time to kick back, yes?

While you're reading around, check out Rudy Garcia's "A Chicano Bilingual Teacher's Thanks-Giving" at La Bloga. Only a little bit  to do with poetry, but impassioned, angry, and interesting.

P is for Poetry! The Cybils Long List

Nominations for the first annual Childrens and Young Adult Bloggers Literary Awards, a.k.a., the Cybils, have now closed. As the administrator of the poetry category, I am pleased to announce the books on the poetry long list, all of which were nominated at the Cybils web site. (If you are looking for holiday gifts, this roster would be a great starting place!) In alphabetical order, they are as follows:

The Barefoot Book of Classic Poems
compiled and illustrated by Jackie Morris; various authors
Barefoot Books

Behold the Bold Umbrellaphant and Other Poems
written by Jack Prelutsky; illustrated by Carin Berger
Greenwillow Books/HarperCollins

Blackbeard: The Pirate King
written by J. Patrick Lewis; various illustrators
National Geographic Children's Books

Busy in the Garden
written by George Shannon; illustrated by Sam Williams
Greenwillow Books/HarperCollins

Butterfly Eyes and Other Secrets of the Meadow
written by Joyce Sidman; illustrated by Beth Krommes
Houghton Mifflin

Castles: Old Stone Poems
written by J. Patrick Lewis and Rebecca Kai Dotlich; illustrated by Dan Burr
Boyds Mills Press

Dear Mr. Rosenwald
written by Carole Boston Weatherford; illustrated by Gregory Christie

Flamingos on the Roof
written and illustrated by Calef Brown
Houghton Mifflin

Frankenstein Makes a Sandwich
written and illustrated by Adam Rex
Harcourt Children's Books

The Friendly Four
written by Eloise Greenfield; illustrated by Jan Spivey Gilchrist

Got Geography!
selected by Lee Bennett Hopkins; various authors; illustrated by Philip Stanton
Greenwillow Books/HarperCollins

written and illustrated by Douglas Florian
Greenwillow Books/ HarperCollins

Hey There, Stink Bug!
written by Leslie Bulion; illustrated by Leslie Evans

I Heard It From Alice Zucchini: Poems About the Garden
written by Juanita Havill; illustrated by Christine Davenier
Chronicle Books

written by Walter Dean Myers; illustrated by Christopher Myers
Holiday House

The Man in the Moon-Fixer's Mask
written by JonArno Lawson; illustrated by Sherwin Tjia
Boyds Mills Press

Meow Ruff: A Story in Concrete Poetry
written by Joyce Sidman; illustrated by Michelle Berg
Houghton Mifflin

Mites to Mastodons: A Book of Animal Poems
written by Maxine Kumin; illustrated by Pamela Zagarenski
Houghton Mifflin

Once Upon a Tomb: A Collection of Gravely Humorous Verses
written by J. Patrick Lewis; illustrated by Simon Bartram
Candlewick Press

One Odd Day
written by Doris Fisher and Dani Sneed; illustrated by Karen Lee
Sylvan Dell

Rhyme & Punishment
written by Brian P. Cleary; illustrated by J.P. Sandy
Milbrook Press/Lerner

There Is a Flower at the Tip of My Nose Smelling Me
written by Alice Walker; illustrated by Stefano Vitale

Tour America: A Journey Through Poems and Art
written by Diane Siebert; illustrated by Stephen T. Johnson
Chronicle Books  ­

What a Day It Was at School!
written by Jack Prelutsky; illustrated by Doug Cushman
Greenwillow Books/HarperCollins

When the Horses Ride By: Children in the Times of War
written by Eloise Greenfield; illustrated by Jan Spivey Gilchrist
Lee & Low Books

Wing Nuts: Screwy Haiku
written by Paul B. Janeczko and J. Patrick Lewis; illustrated by Tricia Tusa
Little, Brown, & Company Books for Young Readers

Yellow Elephant: A Bright Bestiary
written by Julie Larios; illustrated by Julie Paschkis
Harcourt Children's Books