Fuzzy Mud by Louis Sachar
Publisher: Delacorte Books for Young Readers
Publish Date: August 2015
E-galley provided by the publisher via NetGalley
The Sum: 5th grader Tamaya is struggling to navigate the confusing world of middle school politics. 7th grader Marshall is her reluctant chaperone on the walks to and from school everyday, and he is dealing with his own school-related problems. Looking to avoid a promised beating from a classmate, Marshall leads Tamaya on a different route home, through the woods adjacent to the school and completely forbidden. The confrontation happens anyway and in defending herself Tamaya tosses some mud on their attacker. Unbeknownst to any of them, its no ordinary mud. Deemed “fuzzy mud” by Tamaya the stuff ends up having a rather toxic and frightening affect on anyone it touches, spreads rapidly and poses a severe danger that goes far beyond the confines of the woods.
That’s one side of this tale. Alternating chapters reveal the origins of the fuzzy mud through Congressional hearings, emails, confidential documents, etc… The fuzzy mud is a giant science project gone horribly wrong. In an attempt to create a renewable man-made energy source in the form of microorganisms, scientists fail to account for mutations that thrive outside their intended environment and wreak havoc.
The Ins: This is Louis Sachar we’re talking about here. The writing is fairly crisp, the story is short, with humor laced throughout, though I wouldn’t identify this as a funny story. The storyline is intriguing, and certainly timely, as the world searches for more and more energy sources, and struggles to preserve the environment. The message here is pretty clear: Don’t mess with Mother Nature. There’s enough suspense and gross-out descriptions to keep many readers engaged.
The Outs: It is less than 200 pages, while often this is a plus in my book, its hard to fit so much content without sacrificing something, and I’d say here the character development is what’s lacking. Tamaya and Marshall’s lives and situations are told, not shown, and thus, in the end, it all felt a bit flat.
The All-Around: Flawed, but not fatally. I can think of a chunk of readers in my library that might respond to the story, the tone, and the quick pacing. I’ll buy it and share it, mostly with 4th and 5th graders, and a few older students who struggle to finish books.