I’m sending this off to a friend–I think it matches his description of a childhood favorite he’s been looking for for his eldest son–so of course I had to re-read it first. Books that I loved as a child fit into 3 categories: A) great literature, I love them even more as an adult and find more in them than I saw then (eg The Animal Family by Randall Jarrell); B) still a good read, “comfort food” that I revisit half for the book itself and half for nostalgia (most of my childhood favorites); C) I can’t recapture what was so good about it, all the magic has vanished (no good example springs to mind right now). This is sort of B-; it’s not bad, but has some major drawbacks (condescension, a little cutesiness, plot problems, unsettling mix of SF and fairy tale–important events seem to be either dreams, hypnotism, or pre-determined somehow). It’s better in my memories than on the page, but I do love the sturdy little rocket, the nifty varnish that protects it in space, the oxygen urn that goes Phee-eep! This book must have formed some of my ideas about inventions. I used to fantasize about creating a kind of solid light that would have the texture of those cubical light-brown erasers that crumble; it would be a cool light like a firefly’s, and you’d have to actually cover it to create darkness. Mr. Bass, the mysterious child-like man who turns out to be the descendent of Mushroom folk, is more cook than scientist, and his inventions (which he can’t re-create) have a hand-made, organic quality to them.