Wednesday, 14 October 2015

Fuzzy Mud, by Louis Sachar

Fuzzy Mud is the story of Marshall and Tamaya and one “little” science experiment gone just a little bit out of control…

Seventh grader Marshall and fifth grader Tamaya live on the same road and go to the same school and Marshall, as the older of the two, is responsible for walking Tamaya home. Tamaya is uncomfortable about not sticking to the rules and not telling the truth, so when Marshall suddenly decides to take a short cut home through the out-of-bounds woods that border the school property she’s not sure which is worse: entering the woods or walking home alone. But really, what’s the worst that can happen? It’s just a bunch of trees, after all…

And why does Marshall take this sudden deviation from the norm? To avoid Chad, of course. The biggest bully in the school and a kid intent on making Marshall’s life as difficult as possible. Unfortunately, Chad is not so easily deterred, and follows Marshall and Tamaya into the woods.

Fuzzy Mud is the result of a confluence of events: a bully, a trip into the woods, a victim (or two), and an escaped ergie. The ergie is a man-made, single-celled, high-energy, fast-multiplying microorganism. Aka: fuzzy mud. And when Tamaya defends herself from bullying Chad by scooping up a handful of fuzzy mud and flinging it into his face, well, that’s the beginning of everything…

What is the nasty rash Tamaya develops on her hand, and what has happened to Chad?

Fuzzy Mud is – as you’d expect no less from Louis Sachar – completely brilliant, and I loved it. It’s a little bit like Andrew Smith’s Grasshopper Jungle, but for middle grade readers instead of teens – the style is kind of similar, and both books cover the subject of man’s hubris when playing with the natural order of things (in the case, the creation of the ergie). Fuzzy Mud is told using a mixture of techniques, combining reports and interviews with the interchanging stories from Tamaya and Marshall.

What happened at SunRay Farm and how is it linked to Marshall and Tamaya?

Sachar incorporates lots of different themes into this swiftly told tale, from bravery and bullying to what ‘doing the right thing’ means – plus the science, of course. The rime counter included at the start of the chapters adds an extra sense of urgency, as you see how fast things develop, and this feeling is increased by the physical count of the ever-multiplying ergies.

How can they stop the fuzzy mud from spreading? Is it the end of the world?

Marshall and Tamaya are two very different characters but they’re both really easy to like, and the events of the story really bring them both out of their respective shells – lots of lovely character development! This is an excellently written page-turner, and brilliant choice for any young (or older!) readers looking for something just a little bit different.

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