Eleven-year-old Tamaya attends the prestigious Woodridge Academy on scholarship. She walks to and from school every day with her neighbor, Marshall, a seven grader. The walk is extra long because they have to go around a big wooded area.

Once they’re at school, Marshall pretends like he doesn’t know Tamaya. He can’t be seen being friends with someone so much younger, especially this year. There’s a new kid at school named Chad who is making Marshall’s life miserable. The more Chad bullies Marshall, the more Marshall’s old friends ignore him.

In an effort to avoid Chad after school one day, Marshall decides to take a short cut home. With Tamaya trailing along behind him, he climbs a fence and heads into the woods.

They are never, never, never, ever supposed to go into those woods.

Tamaya is scared something terrible is going to happen. She afraid of meeting the deranged hermit who supposedly lives there. She’s afraid she’ll get expelled for breaking the rules. After a while, she’s afraid they’re so lost, they’ll never make it home.

But what she should be afraid of are the mutant microbes that are in there multiplying at an exponential rate. They’re turning into something that looks like fuzzy mud. It’s going to make her hands boil out in painful blisters, that bully to nearly die, and the whole town to be caught up in a national crisis.

Genre: Science fiction

Grades 4-6.


J’s take on it:

I had somewhat mixed feelings about this book — I get tired of stories about bullies, and this one had too many “butt face” jokes in it for me — but I was so glad I included it on my list last year. The connection with Holes made Fuzzy Mud easy to booktalk. Kids didn’t necessarily recognize Louis Sachar’s name, but most everyone had heard of Holes — some had read the book (or were reading it right then), and many more had seen the movie.

At one school, I booktalked Fuzzy Mud for three 4th grade classes in a row, and nearly every boy (and some of the girls) named it as the title they were most eager to read from my list. When I visited that school again this year, one of the girls, now a 5th grader, immediately told me that she’d read and loved Fuzzy Mud. She asked if there was a new one — a sequel — and she seemed devastated to hear that there wasn’t. But then I told her the author has written a number of other books, and the grin on her face was priceless. Another student leaned over and told her about the Wayside School Series. I wouldn’t be surprised if she went to the library that very afternoon to get more Louis Sachar books.

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