A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this book.
What 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.
- Parents say
- Kids say
What's the story?
Fifth-grader Tamaya has always been a good kid. When her chaperone for the walk home from school, seventh-grader Marshall, takes a shortcut through the fenced-off woods, Tamaya reluctantly follows. Marshall hopes to avoid a fight with Chad, but the bully tracks them down. Tamaya, to her surprise, hurls a handful of fuzzy mud at his face, and he stumbles off. She and Marshall soon find their way home, but something has changed: Tamaya's hand feels tingly and develops a rash. The next day, Chad is missing, the rash is worse, and soon Tamaya realizes that something far more sinister is at work than a schoolyard bully.
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.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the way Marshall is isolated and targeted. How does this bullying scenario compare with your experiences? Parents might want explore the key roles in a bullying situation and how to help if your child is being bullied.
Do the alternating viewpoints enhance the storytelling, or do they make it harder to follow or enjoy the book?
The children in this story are struggling with very difficult issues, but they don't appeal to adults for help. Would involving adults have made a positive difference?
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