One of my job perks this summer is getting to help with clubs – Lego Club, Cooking Club, Crochet Club, Coding Club and the Tween Book Club. One of the girls who comes to multiple clubs was adamant that I read this month’s book, Fuzzy Mud by Louis Sachar.
I’ve discussed other Sachar books before, Wayside School. I also love his book Holes, but Fuzzy Mud very different from them. It has a menacing feel to it, so this book is geared more towards 5-7 grade students.
The story is set in a private school in Pennsylvania. Tamaya is a 5th grader, Marshall is a 7th grader and Chad is his bully. Marshall leads Tamaya through the woods one day so that he can avoid a fight with Chad. Chad finds them, and to help Marshall, Tamaya grabs a handful of a strange tar-like mud that has a fuzz of moss on top, and shoves it into Chad’s face.
The story progresses quickly from there. Tamaya developes a strange rash on her hand that keeps spreading and Chad goes missing. There are transcripts from a environmental hearing where the safety of a new alternative fuel is being debated spread between the chapters. The fuel uses a genetically modified slime-mold for energy. Is it safe? What if it wasn’t contained? What if there was a leak into the surrounding countryside?
Sachar has also put in clues as to how quickly the problem is progressing. The chapter headings show an illustration that might just be a Petri dish. For Chapter 1 there is a single dot in the dish. As the story progresses, it begins to look more and more like this:
The ergonym in the biofuel doubles every thirty-two minutes. As the story builds towards its climax, we also see simple math equations:
2 x 1 = 2
2 x 2 = 4
2 x 4 = 8
It doesn’t take long for the equations to create very high numbers.
2 x 67,108,864 = 134,217,728
2 x 134,217,728 = 268,435,456
Tamaya, Marshall and Chad are in grave danger and no one knows it. The kids have to overcome all of their fears to make it through.