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A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this book.
Raises questions about overpopulation, sustainability, and the ethics of engineering new life forms. Demonstrates exponential growth and gives a not-quite-accurate explanation of Hobson's choice.
Listening with an open heart and mind can make even enemies more relatable. People who try to hurt others may be trying to redirect the pain inflicted on them. No one deserves to suffer. We have responsibilities to other people, not matter how much we do or don't like them.
Positive Role Models
Tamaya and Marshall wrestle with their responsibilities and eventually try to do the right thing (though it involves lying to adults and worrying them). Classmates speak up on behalf of a victim when the bully isn't around. Adults mean well, though they're often acting on limited information.
Violence & Scariness
Teasing, bullying, and a fight between classmates. Tall tales about a menacing hermit with a bloody beard in the woods. Rash victims get grisly skin infections; some go blind. One dies from the rash, and pets are put down.
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"Buttface" and "jerk."
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Products & Purchases
Brief mention of Band-Aids and Jell-O.
Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that Fuzzy Mud is both a suspenseful thriller about an ecological disaster and a compassionate study of the shifting social ground of the tween years. Louis Sachar (Holes) carefully explores his characters' simple boxes -- the good student, the bully, the picked-on kid -- to show why they behave the way they do. Parents, school officials, off-kilter scientists -- all are portrayed with empathy. Children avoid getting adult help handling threats and physical danger. The ecological mystery is centered on overpopulation and rising energy demands, raising troubling questions with no easy answers. Several characters become gravely ill, and there's one death.
Is It Any Good?
This slim, quick-moving eco-thriller is a marvel of suspense that pulls you willingly toward certain disaster while smartly sizing up middle-grade angst. In FUZZY MUD, author Louis Sarchar shifts perspective and time between chapters, jumping among Tamaya, Marshall, and transcripts of Senate hearings. There's also a touch of humor, with brief but telling character portraits. You don’t spend enough time with any one character for him or her to really hook your heart, but they're all presented with compassionate affection.
The real thrill here is the ecological mystery. Sachar presents the growing menace with chilling turns and touches. The only disappointment is a rushed, overly convenient ending that glosses over the thorny, difficult truths Sachar so deftly handles earlier in the book.
Did we miss something on diversity?
Research shows a connection between kids' healthy self-esteem and positive portrayals in media. That's why we've added a new "Diverse Representations" section to our reviews that will be rolling out on an ongoing basis. You can help us help kids by suggesting a diversity update.