Fuzzy Mud by Louis Sachar
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
In Fuzzy Mud by Louis Sachar, Tamaya and Marshal take a shortcut through the woods after in order to avoid the school bully, but they find themselves in even more trouble. After getting some weird mud (fuzzy mud) on her hand, Tamaya finds herself breaking out in a rash and it's spreading--a lot. If she tells the truth, then she has to admit that she and Marshal were not following rules. And Tamaya always follows the rules, however when it comes to light that someone else might also be hurt because of her choices, Tamaya has to decide whether breaking the rules will hurt her or help someone else more.
Fuzzy Mud explores a lot of major issues in this short book: the environment and the effect of introducing man-made substances into it; choosing between following the rules and doing the right thing (they're not always the same!); and bullying. By switching between Tamaya, Marshall, and other key figures, Louis Sachar builds on how this situation even came to pass.
Mostly we see the story through Tamaya's eyes as she discovers the mud, touches it, and watches as the rash spreads across her body. Through her sections we see how she struggles with not wanting to break rules, but also wanting to fit in and not quite understanding societal rules for fifth grade girls. Marshall gives is the real view of being the victim of the class bully. The new kid at his school has pinpointed Marshall and none of his classmates are stepping up--even though they all see it. There are also snippets of interviews with scientists who are trying to determine if certain micro-organisms that have been created are safe for the environment or not in a set of hearings in which they are debated. The headmaster at the school also gets her perspective as problems start spiraling and she is trying to keep it controlled.
Fuzzy Mudis a book that will interest some of your more reluctant readers. It's also one that will be good for kids who interested in the environment and improving our world. Being that's less than 200 pages, it makes it less daunting than many middle grade novels. This is a book that I'll be using next year for our fifth grade book club.
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