Enigmatic Mud

Mud is a dirty thing–that is its nature after all. But what happens when bio-engineered organisms are introduced into the mix? In Louis Sachar’s Fuzzy Mud, two adolescents encounter mutated mud that has an effect on a small community in western Pennsylvania.

Tamaya Dhilwaddi, a fifth grader, and her “not-during-school” friend Marshall Walsh, a seventh grader, walk to and from school together every day, taking the same route. So when Marshall decides to take a short cut one day, to avoid his bully Chad Wilson, Tamaya is forced to decide between following the rules her mom set for her or to follow her instincts about the “short cut.” Getting lost in the woods, they stumble across something that gets them all into trouble, bringing the CDC and the Senate into the mix.

Narratively, the story provides an entertaining cautionary tale about bio-engineering while simultaneously demonstrating the development of children. The layout of the book is rather ingenious, with the upper right-hand corner of the beginning of a chapter containing a petri dish that gets increasingly darkened by microorganisms as the story progresses. It was difficult to not try to draw comparisons between Fuzzy Mud and Holes, which was a favorite of mine during my elementary school days. I found that I wasn’t as invested in these characters as I was with those in Holes, but there are plenty of parallels that could be drawn between the Fuzzy Mud characters and elementary school kids today–particularly as this middle grade novel doesn’t underestimate the intellect of its characters and its audience.

Overall, I’d give it a 4 out of 5 stars.

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