The Mutant Mushroom Takeover

S & S. Sept. 2020. 256p. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9781534468658.
Gr 4-7–Eleven-year-old Magnolia “Maggie” Stone loves science and nature, and this summer she is determined to win Vitaccino’s Junior Naturalist Merit Award. Not only will the award earn her $500, but it will also give her the chance to speak to the Vitaccino board about her father getting his job back and coming home to Shady Pines. When her conspiracy theorist pal Nate asks her to come with him to investigate some mysterious lights in the woods, she agrees, hoping to capture a photograph that will earn her the top prize. But what she and Nate encounter in the woods that night is even more bizarre than either of them could have predicted. Maggie is a diligent scientist, recording her observations and hypotheses in her field notes. She is also a persistent and vocal advocate for her family and her town, even in the face of danger and a real conspiracy within Shady Pines’ powerful company, Vitaccino. Young readers will likely identify with Maggie’s tenacity, and her frustration when adults seem unwilling to hear or believe her concerns. An author’s note at the end of the book helps to ground some of the science fiction elements (such as zombie-creating mushrooms and anti-fungal bat poop) in the real world.
VERDICT A fun debut novel with an action-packed climax that will leave readers eager to scope out the weirder side of nature.

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