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Cover image for Fuzzy mud
Fuzzy mud




New York : Delacorte Press, [2015]
Physical Description:
181 pages : map ; 22 cm
General Note:
"A Junior Library Guild selection"--Jacket flap.
"Two middle-grade kids take a shortcut home from school and discover what looks like fuzzy mud but is actually a substance with the potential to wreak havoc on the entire world"-- Provided by publisher.
Program Information:
Accelerated Reader 4.2.

Reading Counts! 3.7.

Accelerated Reader AR MG 5.0 5.0 175506.

6-8 10.0 Reading Counts RC 4.3 66649.


Call Number

On Order



From the author of the acclaimed bestseller Holes, winner of the Newbery Award and the National Book Award, comes Fuzzy Mud, a New York Times bestseller. 

"Sachar blends elements of mystery, suspense, and school-day life into a taut environmental cautionary tale."-- Publishers Weekly
Be careful. Your next step may be your last.

Fifth grader Tamaya Dhilwaddi and seventh grader Marshall Walsh have been walking to and from Woodridge Academy together since elementary school. But their routine is disrupted when bully Chad Hilligas challenges Marshall to a fight. To avoid the conflict, Marshall takes a shortcut home through the off-limits woods. Tamaya, unaware of the reason for the detour, reluctantly follows. They soon get lost. And then they find trouble. Bigger trouble than anyone could ever have imagined.
In the days and weeks that follow, the authorities and the U.S. Senate become involved, and what they uncover might affect the future of the world.

Author Notes

Louis Sachar was born in East Meadow, New York on March 20, 1954. He attended the University of California, at Berkeley. During his senior year, he helped out at Hillside Elementary School. It was his experience there that led to his first book, Sideways Stories from Wayside School, written in 1976. After college, he worked for a while in a sweater warehouse in Norwalk, Connecticut before attending Hastings College of the Law in San Francisco, where he graduated in 1980. Sideways Stories from Wayside School was accepted for publication during his first week of law school. He worked part-time as a lawyer for eight years before becoming a full-time writer in 1989. His other works include There's a Boy in the Girls' Bathroom, the Marvin Redpost books, Fuzzy Mud, and Holes, which won the 1999 Newbery Medal, the National Book Award, and the Boston Globe-Horn Book Award and was made into a major motion picture.

(Bowker Author Biography)

Reviews 6

School Library Journal Review

Gr 5-8-To avoid being beaten up by bully Chad, fifth grader Tamaya and her seventh grader friend Marshall take a shortcut home through the forbidden woods that surround their private school. When Chad forces a confrontation, Tamaya throws some "fuzzy mud" in his face, unwittingly unleashing an environmental and medical disaster that will affect thousands of people and animals. The fuzzy mud is actually a scientific breakthrough gone wrong, but will this disaster be enough to stop further experimentation? With appropriate sound effects and outstanding narration, Kathleen McInerney and a full cast skillfully create two scenarios, each occurring in a different time and place but which complement each other and keep the suspense high until the last chapter. Sachar deftly combines a lesson about bullying, a reflection on virtues, a suggestion of possible ramifications of our ever-growing population, and a message about tampering with natural science, all without becoming preachy or overly scientific. A reading by the author of "Can Virtue Be Taught?" will compel listeners to reflect on the book's themes. VERDICT A solid, suspenseful, and thoughtful tale that will appeal to fans of the author and science fiction. ["Featuring a plot that moves as fast as the ergonyms replicate, this issue-driven novel will captivate readers while giving them plenty to think about": SLJ 5/15 review of the Delacorte book.]-MaryAnn Karre, West Middle School Binghamton, NY © Copyright 2015. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Publisher's Weekly Review

Sachar blends elements of mystery, suspense, and school-day life into a taut environmental cautionary tale about the insatiable hunger for energy sources and the cost of not doing the right thing. Marshall's routines at Woodridge Academy-including his daily walk to and from school with his anxious neighbor Tamaya-are upended by the arrival of blowhard bully Chad. A quiet seventh-grader, Marshall becomes a target for Chad, who challenges him to an after-school fight. Rather than suffer a beating, he and Tamaya take a shortcut through the off-limits woods and come across what Tamaya dubs "fuzzy mud," a strange substance they don't realize harbors great danger for them and the town at large. Amid chapters following the children's exploits, Sachar includes transcripts of secret Senate hearings with the scientists who engineered the microorganisms that generate fuzzy mud. In a tense sequence of events, readers learn more about Marshall, Tamaya, Chad, and the peril they face. A dramatic conclusion celebrates the positive ripples of friendship and honesty, and will leave readers with much food for thought. Ages 10-up. Agent: Ellen Levine, Trident Media Group. (Aug.) © Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.

Horn Book Review

A shortcut through the woods? What could go wrong? Neighbors and fellow outsiders Tamaya (fifth grade) and Marshall (seventh) are in bigger trouble than they know when Marshall diverts them from their usual route home in order to evade a bully, Chad. Not only does Chad know those woods, too, but theres a pool of mysterious mud that leaves Tamaya with a mysterious rash after shes grabbed a handful to sling into the bullys face. (You dont want to know what happens to him.) Interspersed with this expert school survival drama, and not impeding it one little bit, are excerpts of testimony from secret Senate hearings about a microscopic manmade organism, the ergonym, which seems to have escaped a secret laboratory to flourish in the wild, doubling its population every thirty-six minutes. (A helpful and horrifying sequence of pictures on the chapter heads shows you how to do the math.) Tamaya and Marshall make a sympathetic pair of heroes to center this exciting tale, vintage Sachar for the way it brings big ideas to everyday drama, and recalling classic William Sleator, too, for blending just-gross-enough horror with sober -- if you can stop to think about it -- consideration of ethics and science. roger sutton (c) Copyright 2015. The Horn Book, Inc., a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Kirkus Review

When fifth-grader Tamaya Dhilwaddi and seventh-grader Marshall Walsh cut through the woods to avoid school bully Chad Hilligas, they unwittingly set off a chain of events that threatens global catastrophe. What exactly is that pool of mud that Tamaya notices in the woodsgooey, tarlike muck with a sheen of fuzzy, yellow-brown scum on top? Whatever it is, it comes in handy when Chad attacks Tamaya and Marshall, and Tamaya scoops up a handful and shoves it into his face. But that evening, she notices a terrible rash on her hands, and Chad doesn't show up for school the next day. Revealed in interspersed testimony from secret Senate hearings is the fact that scientists have been researching Biolene, a viable alternative to gasoline using artificial, high-energy microorganisms. The threat of mutations and "frankengerms" had been considered negligible, but now a walk in the woods has led to the quarantine of the whole Pennsylvania town as an epidemic has spread, the airport and railroad stations have been closed, and the Pennsylvania National Guard has been called in. Sachar's tale is slim, as is the delineation of character and setting, but the fast-paced plot and enough science to give the illusion of substance will have readers racing through the pages. An exciting story of school life, friends, and bullies that becomes a quick meditation on the promise and dangers of modern science. (Speculative fiction. 8-12) Copyright Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.

Booklist Review

*Starred Review* In the woods behind Woodridge Academy, in Heath Cliff, Pennsylvania, a seemingly innocuous substance grows exponentially more threatening by the hour. It's fuzzy mud. and its discovery is nothing short of spine-tingling. While taking a shortcut home from school, fifth-grader Tamaya Dhilwaddi comes in contact with the mud and breaks out into a terrible, blistery rash. When a boy she'd seen in the woods is reported missing the next day, she knows the mud is to blame and returns to find him. Tamaya's story is interspersed with court transcripts regarding Biolene, a high-energy biofuel being developed secretly in Heath Cliff. Sachar expertly builds tension as he incrementally reveals the dangers of Biolene and its connection to fuzzy mud, ratcheting up the dangers facing Tamaya and her friends. Unafraid of getting his hands dirty, Newbery Award winner Sachar (Holes, 1998) digs into hot-button topics, including overpopulation, the energy crisis, and bioengineering risks, while introducing readers to Hobson's choice choosing between two evils. On a more intimate front, Sachar also incorporates the troubles of bullying, divorce, and the social growing pains of preadolescence, increasing the story's resonance as a whole. Grounded in well-rounded central characters, this compelling novel holds as much suspense as fuel for discussion. HIGH-DEMAND BACKSTORY: Multi-award-winner Sachar will launch this book with an author tour and national media campaign, increasing demand for the already popular author.--Smith, Julia Copyright 2010 Booklist

New York Review of Books Review

ADULTS HAVE IT rough in children's literature. Mothers vanish, fathers get slain, grim teen societies herd all the grown-ups into their own boring corners of the planet. It's not that children's authors dislike adults, exactly. It's more an issue of plotting: Stories are more interesting when protagonists have the ability to change the world around them, for good or for bad - and kids will be the first to tell you that they become pretty powerless whenever adults are on the scene. Louis Sachar's Newbery-winning "Holes," in which detained children are forced to dig pits at the insistence of a draconian adult, is about just that: the complicated agency of children in the face of a disempowering system. Luckily for us, Sachar is mining this promising terrain again in "Fuzzy Mud." As the novel begins, Tamaya Dhilwaddi has just begun fifth grade at the exclusive Woodridge Academy, and the friends she thought she knew are different this year. They fall over themselves to entertain the older boys, for one thing, and though Tamaya tries to keep up with her shifting world, she finds it mystifying. "When did the rules change? she wondered. When did it become bad to be good?" The seventh grader Marshall Walsh is feeling similarly out of his depth. When he takes a shortcut through forbidden woods to avoid a bully, Tamaya tags along. Two kids wandering into the dark forest - if this sounds like the start of a fairy tale, it's a very modern one. Tamaya falls in the woods, and in the process comes in contact with "some kind of fuzzcovered mud." Deliciously, we readers at this point know more than the kids, because Sachar has interspersed his narrative with the transcript from a federal inquiry into the nearby SunRay Farm. The biotech engineers there have been working on a secret slime mold, hoping to market it as an energy source in a world with dwindling resources. That's not your average mud that Tamaya has fallen into. As a rash spreads and blisters appear on her skin, Tamaya believably tries to play down her growing infection. It's surprisingly easy: Her mom is perpetually wrapped up in work, and the school nurse maintains that she must have had a reaction to peanuts. Sachar has wisely placed his characters at the age of puberty, when worrying about a turncoat body - or whether going into the woods with a boy will lead to a mysterious rash - is native territory. Tamaya's desperate desire to be seen, when her only strategy in every social situation is to withdraw, is achingly well observed. So too is Marshall's ashamed reaction to a bully wanting to beat him up. Their avoidance of their troubles only increases the reader's tension when we realize, through the interspersed transcripts, that this impending eco-crisis will have a body count. So far, so good. These are all the makings of kid-lit Crichton, but there's one problem: The children are well-realized characters and agents within their immediate social worlds, but once the bioengineering plot is introduced and it turns out the very fate of the world is at stake, the story line spins quickly out of the kids' orbit. The reader is left in the sometimes frustrating position of feeling that the most exciting parts of the tale - bioengineering, an investigation and a coverup! - are happening offstage. Focusing the plot on Marshall and Tamaya does capture something of the powerless quality of childhood, but it can also make for a passive reading experience. We're following victims on an avoidance path, objects more than subjects, unable to alter the world that has put them in danger. That said, there's charm and intelligence in spades here. More visceral pleasures too: As soon as someone needs to have skin transplanted from his buttocks to his face, a big chunk of teenage readers will want to find everything else Sachar has written. Of special note is the book's interior design, with a petri dish depicted at the start of each chapter, its multiplying micro-inhabitants gradually overflowing into the text. Sachar is masterly at capturing the interplay between children and adults, down to the subtleties of how children can get flustered and convey the wrong answer even when they're trying to be truthful. These are characters pushed past their edge, and yet they always remain kids. If only the adults hadn't stolen some of their best lines. ELIOT SCHREFER'S latest book for young readers is "Immortal Guardians."