Fuzzy Mud

Book review by
Darienne Stewart, Common Sense Media
Fuzzy Mud Book Poster Image
Gripping, taut eco-thriller a thoughtful, satisfying read.

Parents say

age 11+
Based on 4 reviews

Kids say

age 9+
Based on 4 reviews

A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this book.

Educational Value

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.

Positive Messages

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 & Representations

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

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.

Sex
Language

"Buttface" and "jerk."

Consumerism

Brief mention of Band-Aids and Jell-O.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

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.

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Adult Written bykaizanmom December 3, 2015

May upset sensitive children

My6th grader found the fictional fuzzy mud and the effects as it eats the skin (rashes, blindness, death, etc.) to be very disturbing. She wishes she hadn'... Continue reading
Adult Written bym m February 9, 2017

GOOD

It is a must read if you like creepy things
Teen, 13 years old Written byaj879903 September 20, 2016

OK Book, But A Slow Start.

This is an OK book. It has a slow slow start but keep reading it gets interesting.
Kid, 12 years old July 26, 2017

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?

Book details

Themes & Topics

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