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The Picture Book Buzz

Fungi Grow - Perfect Picture Book Friday #PPBF + Two Book Giveaway

This is a great time of year, as the weather turns, to get outside and look for all the many and marvelous mushrooms and fungi (lichen and moss, too) that spring up in our gardens, yards, compost piles, parks, nearby woods, or even on street trees. Especially if you can get out just after it rains.

Packed with stunning illustrations, lyrical text, and helpful information, this is a wonderful STEM introduction to the fungi life cycle, their many benefits and uses, and the diversity of fungi all around us.

Book cover - a bunny sits among nine different mushrooms.

Fungi Grow

Author: Maria Gianferrari

Illustrator: Diana Sudyka

Publisher: Beach Lane Books/Simon Schuster (2023)

Ages: Baby - 8



Mushrooms, fungi life cycle, and environment.


Above ground, below ground, all around, fungi grow. They root and fruit and twist and twine everywhere on earth. Some are edible, some are medicinal, some are even poisonous. Step into this book and discover the amazing array of mushrooms and see how they multiply. Learn how fungi heal and help humans. Explore the incredible underground fungal network that helps forests thrive. And so much more!

Opening Lines:

Fungi grow.

Start with a spore -

a sort of seed.

What I LOVED about this book:

This charming, delightfully deceptive STEM book begins with such an intriguing opening spread. Like a bit of 'family history' Diana Sudyka places the first mushroom we see in an ornate frame, like what a child would see on a wall or mantle. Then Diana and Maria Gianferrari carry us along the path of the mushroom spores to - the page turn, of course 😊, and . . .

Internal spread - on left a portrait of a red-capped mushroom releases spores that widen and expand in a cloud across to the edge of the right page.

Text © Maria Gianferrari, 2023. Image © Diana Sudyka, 2023.

a spectacular image of shooting, catapulting, puffing spores. Five colorful fungi release enticing swirls of spores which blend into ta fluffy "PUFF!"

Internal spread - an Indigo Milk cap, Hedgehog mushroom, Bolete,  Violet cort, and  Cottony rot fungus release swirls of spores into a big cloud that says "PUFF!" over the head of a bunny & worm.

Text © Maria Gianferrari, 2023. Image © Diana Sudyka, 2023.

I love that the youngest kids will be intrigued by the colors, swirls and the animals tucked throughout the illustrations - like the bunny, worm & butterfly on this page. While the older kids (and adults) will revel in learning the structural names ("gills or teeth or pores"), the individual fungi's names artistically woven into the illustration ("Hedgehog mushroom"), and the informative side text - "Cottony rot fungus spurts plumes of spores. This action, called “puffing,” creates wind for spores to sail on." It truly will appeal to multiple ages and interests.

After examining others ways that fungi spread, another portrait frame highlights the next process - like the milestones of childhood.

Internal spread - on left portait showing fungi roots spreading across the gutter to spread down and wide throught the ground, passing a hybernating bee and an earthworm.

Text © Maria Gianferrari, 2023. Image © Diana Sudyka, 2023.

Fungi grow.

Finding moisture,

spores take root.

Enzymes spit

from hyphal tips,

breaking down

rock and wood

for food—


by unmaking.

Lyrical text ("unfolding, unfurling, creating a colony of mycelium—a knitted network of roots.") and creative illustrations make it exciting to discover the mysterious and often hidden world of fungi. While there is a glossary, the inclusion of pronunciations and explanations in the side text are really helpful for the reader and caregivers. And I really love the unabashed inclusion of scientific terms in the text - such as "enzymes, hyphal, and mycelium."

After another framed image, showing fungi's connection to trees (the "wood-wide web"), Maria and Diana have a lot of fun exploring all the ways fungi grow above ground. If you liked the earlier image with the "PUFF!," wait until you see the next five spreads! In addition to being scientifically accurate, they have a lot of fun in this book. The illustrations are vividly colored, full of movement, and creative compositions - a moth perching near similarly colored mushrooms, a salamander sneaking past, and Diana's creation of some beautifully inventive lettering. Maria's dashs of alliteration, exciting onomatopoeia, fun metaphor, and sprinkling of rhyme make this such a fun book to read aloud. "Mushrooms sprout/Parasols pop out./Mushrooms fan/arc/spread their skirts."

Following a brief showcasing of fungi's ability to grow in unexpected places, their dark side, and their medicinal and environmental healing properties, the ending wraps back to the beginning in a visually stunning and textually wonderful way. The back matter includes a warning about eating wild mushrooms, fun facts, lots of additional resources, and a gorgeous diagram of the fungi life cycle. This exciting STEM book combines a lovely lyrical text and detailed, bold illustrations to create an award-worthy and playful invitation into the fantastic world of fungi.


Collage of 8 mushroom crafts using items around the house.

- here's some fun ways to make mushrooms with paper plates, noodles, origami, egg cartons, and more.

- look for fungi in your yard, park, school yard, or on a walk. Create a fungi log and keep track of the ones you see and where they were growing. Draw or describe them in a notebook or collect photos of them.

Fungi savanger hunt card from

- go on a fungi scavenger hunt, examples (Pt Defiance Zoo, WA) & (Whistler, B.C.) (Grass River, MI), or see if a park or zoo near you has one for your particular area.

- for younger kids, pair this with Mushroom Rain by Laura K. Zimmermann, illustrated by Jamie Green. For older kids, pair with Funky Fungi: 30 Activities for Exploring Molds, Mushrooms, Lichens, and More by Alisha Gabriel and Sue Heavenrich.

Super Special 2-Book Giveaway

Collage of the two book covers - Thank A Farmer and Fungi Grow.

Awesome news! Maria Gianferrari is offering a copy of Thank A Farmer and a copy of Fungi Grow to two lucky readers!

- Simply comment below and/or on Maria Gianferrari's interview post to be entered in the random drawing on October 23rd.

- Be sure to say where (if) you shared the post (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, or Bluesky), and I'll add additional entries for you.

- *Sorry US Residents only.*

If you missed the interview with Maria Gianferrari on Monday, find it (here).

This post is part of a series by authors and KidLit bloggers called Perfect Picture Book Fridays. For more picture book suggestions and resources see Susanna Leonard Hill's Perfect Picture Books.


Maria Marshall

 Photograph © A. Marshall

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