Book Review: What’s Their Kingdom?

Book Review: What’s Their Kingdom?

McCormick, Juliene with Claire Thoele. 2020. What’s Their Kingdom? 50 pp. Price: $18.99. Suitable for children 6–12 years.

This book is intended to teach young people about fungi, using mushrooms and bracket fungi as examples. Narrated by the author as well as the two “Fun Guys”, the book actively engages readers by highlighting characteristics of other Kingdoms of living organisms, and then differentiating fungi from organisms in those other Kingdoms. I read this book to/with my five-year-old granddaughter who enjoyed filling in blanks on the identity of other living groups in the introductory portion of the book, and then finding out how fungi are different from those other organisms – birds, insects, fish, plants, etc.

Although intended for young people, this hard-backed book is a great introduction to fungi for humans of all ages. The author uses examples and photographs that she has taken over the years to illustrate the different types of polypores and mushrooms and describes the physical features that differentiate those fungi. These are the most likely forms of fungi that readers will encounter, making the topic and learning accessible to most.

This book does a good job of describing the structure and role of mycelium and fruiting bodies, using an apple tree with fruit to draw a comparison with fungal mycelium and fruiting bodies. She also talks about the importance of mycorrhizae to the forest and some ways that fungi are detrimental and beneficial to humans.

In addition to teaching about the characteristics of fungi through the author’s words with photographs and illustrations by Claire Thoele, the book encourages readers to draw, photograph, and otherwise document the fungi they encounter. Of the book’s 49 pages, nearly half offer fun ways to “get involved” with fungi. In addition to photographs from the author’s “fungi journal”, she includes words to a short song, describes how to make a spore print and draw a mushroom, and includes a coloring page. Fifteen genera are named and illustrated in color drawings. After we finished reading the book, my granddaughter immediately drew a mushroom based on the instructions given and then colored the available page. She liked the illustrations and photographs and was ready to head outside to find some fungi!

I noted one misleading statement. One of the illustrated polypores was described as green in color, but that color likely comes from algae on the surface of the fruiting body. Some other statements are overly general and could be misunderstood. But, none of these issues take away from the overall usefulness of this book for teaching children and others about fungi and, hopefully, instilling a sense of wonder and curiosity!

Overall, I recommend this book as a way to educate and excite children and others about fungi. The author uses often-seen fungi to describe how they are similar to and different from organisms in other Kingdoms. The difference between humans and fungi is emphasized by referring to the reader as “Mammal Reader” and the two mushroom spokespeople as “Fun Guys.” The author does a good job of educating the reader about the structure, biology, and many of the benefits that fungi provide to us. The book would be a great addition to elementary/middle school libraries, in homes whose inhabitants are curious about nature, and offered in nature centers and other locations where visitors are interested in natural history.

This book is self-published by Juliene McCormick, with illustrations by Claire Thoele. Copies can be obtained through Barnes and Noble, Amazon, Walmart, and other vendors. You can get a signed copy by writing directly to the author at

Mary E. Palm
Upper Marlboro, Maryland, USA