Uh-oh, it looks like your Internet Explorer is out of date.

For a better shopping experience, please upgrade now.

Fuzzy Mud

Fuzzy Mud

4.8 8
by Louis Sachar

See All Formats & Editions

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


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.

Editorial Reviews

The New York Times Book Review - Eliot Schrefer
…there's charm and intelligence in spades here…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.
Publishers Weekly
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.)
From the Publisher
A New York Times bestseller

Starred Review:
"Grounded in well-rounded central characters, this compelling novel holds as much suspense as fuel for discussion.”—Booklist, Starred

"Fast-paced. An exciting story of school life, and bullies that becomes a quick meditation on the promise and dangers of modern science."—Kirkus Reviews

"This engaging eco-cautionary tale... will captivate readers while giving them plenty to think about."—School Library Journal

". . . vintage Sachar for the way it brings big ideas to everyday drama."—The Horn Book

"Sachar blends elements of mystery, suspense, and school-day life into a taut environmental cautionary tale."—Publishers Weekly

"An engrossing plot . . .a most entertaining ride . . . .Readers will devour this delightful book just as they did with HOLES. A unique story that keeps readers on their toes."—VOYA

"Sachar is a master at compact and unintimidating plotting; the school story unfolds with swift authenticity in its own right and then becomes tautly suspenseful."—The Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books

". . .lively narrative . . . snappy dialogue and plenty of action."—Shelf Awareness

VOYA, August 2015 (Vol. 38, No. 3) - Debbie Wenk
Tamaya and Marshall are supposed to walk home from school taking the long route around the woods. When Marshall is threatened by Chad, the school bully, he decides to walk home through the woods instead to avoid the bully. The three end up in the woods together anyway, and with Chad beating on Marshall, Tamaya grabs some “fuzzy” mud and shoves it into Chad’s face. Later that day, Tamaya notices an unusual rash on her hand where she handled the fuzzy mud. The next day, Chad is missing and Tamaya’s rash has worsened. What ensues is an intriguing adventure tale as well as a look at the meaning of friendship. Sachar has deftly created a tale with a lesson while pulling readers into an engrossing plot. This wonderfully told story is a realistic look at bullying, but also examines what constitutes courage and offers a warning about the dangers of moving ahead too quickly with even promising scientific discoveries. Most young teens will identify with some part of Tamaya or Marshall’s trials as Sachar allows readers to see what they are thinking and feeling. Both children are frightened yet respond very differently. Even Chad becomes an object of sympathy as his backstory is revealed and Tamaya comes to understand him better. Readers will be taken along for a most entertaining ride and many will finish the book in one sitting — one simply HAS to find out what happens next. Middle school readers will devour this delightful book just as they did with Holes. Reviewer: Debbie Wenk; Ages 11 to 14.
VOYA, August 2015 (Vol. 38, No. 3) - Sarah Phillips
Fuzzy Mud is a unique story that keeps readers on their toes and constantly wondering what is going to happen next. Tamaya and Marshall's relationship adds light to the frightening situation they are in with Chad and the lethal fuzzy mud. This book will appeal mainly to younger readers with interests in science, mysteries, mildly horrific themes, and relationships with both family and friends, but is also enjoyable enough for older readers to read as well. Reviewer: Sarah Phillips, Teen Reviewer; Ages 11 to 14.
School Library Journal
Gr 3–5—Newbery Award-winning author Sachar takes on science and the government in this engaging eco-cautionary tale. Middle schoolers Tamaya, Marshall, and Chad meet in the woods near their school, but it's not to party. Tamaya follows Marshall into the woods because she thinks they're taking a shortcut home. Marshall hopes the detour will help them avoid a beating from bully Chad, who finds the pair anyway. Tamaya stops the boys' fight by throwing some strange-looking mud in Chad's face and inadvertently unleashes an environmental disaster lurking in the woods. The mud is composed of ergonyms, a microscopic life form never seen on Earth before, created by a nearby research facility to produce a safe, inexpensive biofuel. The bad news? Contact with the mud is dangerous for most other life forms already on Earth, starting with Tamaya and Chad. Sachar confidently juxtaposes three time lines, one of which takes place several months after the initial events, revealing some of the devastation to come, which serves to increase readers' apprehension about the characters' fate. Another time line recaps Senate hearings into the biofuel's risks and benefits. Sachar is at his best in these chapters, wryly skewing government power and questioning science's ability to control life and save us from ourselves. A witness at the hearings delivers the author's warning: "Unless we do something to control world population, nothing will help us." Clever petri dish design elements and multiplication equations sprinkled throughout the text help readers grasp the simple math that challenges science's claims of control. VERDICT 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.—Marybeth Kozikowski, Sachem Public Library, Holbrook, NY
Kirkus Reviews
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 woods—gooey, 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)
Children's Literature - Remy Dou
Fifth graders have enough to deal with without having to worry about a technology corporation’s disease-causing mutant fungus. Yet, this is exactly Tamaya’s problem after she touches a strange glob of mud in the middle of the woods. Unwittingly, she contaminates an entire town while facing personal issues about boys, bullies, and growing up. Marshall, her older schoolmate, only adds to Tamaya’s burdens as he lashes out with teenage angst. Sachar builds a suspenseful story as Tamaya’s rash spreads and the town discovers more about Biolene, the product responsible for her illness. Unfortunately, the plot is a bit flat and the characters two-dimensional. The story is part warning about the dangers of genetically modified organisms, part herald about the need to develop sustainable energy, part lesson on how to deal with bullies, and part epidemic thriller. While the writing flows well, none of these components reach the level of quality expected from the writer of the award-winning Holes. Reviewer: Remy Dou; Ages 10 to 16.

Product Details

Random House Children's Books
Publication date:
Sales rank:
Product dimensions:
5.70(w) x 8.30(h) x 0.90(d)
700L (what's this?)
Age Range:
10 - 14 Years

Read an Excerpt


Tuesday, November 2

11:55 a.m.

Woodridge Academy, a private school in Heath Cliff, Pennsylvania, had once been the home of William Heath, after whom the town had been named. Nearly three hundred students now attended school in the four-story, black-and-brown stone building where William Heath had lived from 1891 to 1917, with only his wife and three daughters.

Tamaya Dhilwaddi’s fifth-grade classroom on the fourth floor had been the youngest daughter’s bedroom. The kindergarten area had once been the stables.

The lunchroom used to be a grand ballroom, where elegantly dressed couples had sipped champagne and danced to a live orchestra. Crystal chandeliers still hung from the ceiling, but these days the room permanently smelled of stale macaroni and cheese. Two hundred and eighty-nine kids, ages five to fourteen, crammed their mouths with Cheetos, made jokes about boogers, spilled milk, and shrieked for no apparent reason.

Tamaya didn’t shriek, but she did gasp very quietly as she covered her mouth with her hand.

“He’s got this superlong beard,” a boy was saying, “splotched all over with blood.”

“And no teeth,” another boy added.

They were boys from the upper grades. Tamaya felt excited just talking to them, although, so far, she had been too nervous to actually say anything. She was sitting in the middle of a long table, eating lunch with her friends Monica, Hope, and Summer. One of the older boys’ legs was only inches away from hers.

“The guy can’t chew his own food,” said the first boy. “So his dogs have to chew it up for him. Then they spit it out, and then he eats it.”

“That is so disgusting!” exclaimed Monica, but from the way her eyes shone when she said it, Tamaya could tell that her best friend was just as excited as she was to have the attention of the older boys.

The boys had been telling the girls about a deranged hermit who lived in the woods. Tamaya didn’t believe half of what they said. She knew boys liked to show off. Still, it was fun to let herself get caught up in it.

“Except they’re not really dogs,” said the boy sitting next to Tamaya. “They’re more like wolves! Big and black, with giant fangs and glowing red eyes.”

Tamaya shuddered.

Woodridge Academy was surrounded by miles of woods and rocky hills. Tamaya walked to school every morning with Marshall Walsh, a seventh-grade boy who lived three houses down from her and on the other side of their tree-lined street. Their walk was almost two miles long, but it would have been a lot shorter if they hadn’t had to circle around the woods.

“So what does he eat?” asked Summer.

The boy next to Tamaya shrugged. “Whatever his wolves bring him,” he said. “Squirrels, rats, people. He doesn’t care, just so long as it’s food!”

The boy took a big bite of his tuna fish sandwich, then imitated the hermit by curling his lips so that it looked like he didn’t have any teeth. He opened and closed his mouth in an exaggerated manner, showing Tamaya his partially chewed food.

“You are so gross!” exclaimed Summer from the other side of Tamaya.

All the boys laughed.

Summer was the prettiest of Tamaya’s friends, with straw-colored hair and sky-blue eyes. Tamaya figured that was probably the reason the boys were talking to them in the first place. Boys were always acting silly around Summer.

Tamaya had dark eyes and dark hair that hung only halfway down her neck. It used to be a lot longer, but three days before school started, while she was still in Philadelphia with her dad, she made the drastic decision to chop it off. Her dad took her to a very posh hair salon that he probably couldn’t afford. As soon as she got it cut, she was filled with regret, but when she got back to Heath Cliff, her friends all told her how mature and sophisticated she looked.

Her parents were divorced. She spent most of the summer with her dad, and one weekend each month during the school year. Philadelphia was on the opposite end of the state, three hundred miles away. When she returned home to Heath Cliff, she always had the feeling that she’d missed something important while she’d been gone. It might have been nothing more than an inside joke that her friends all laughed at, but she always felt a little left out, and it took her a while to get back into the groove.

“He came this close to eating me,” said one of the boys, a tough-looking kid with short black hair and a square face. “A wolf snapped at my leg just as I was climbing back over the fence.”

The boy stood on top of the bench and showed the girls his pant leg for proof. It was covered in dirt, and Tamaya could see a small hole just above his sneaker, but that could have come from anything. Besides, she thought, if he’d been running away from the wolf, then the hole would have been in the back of his pants, not the front.

The boy stared down at her. He had blue, steel-like eyes, and Tamaya got the feeling that he could read her mind and was daring her to say something.

She swallowed, then said, “You’re not really allowed in the woods.”

The boy laughed, and then the other boys laughed too.

“What are you going to do?” he challenged. “Tell Mrs. Thaxton?”

She felt her face redden. “No.”

“Don’t listen to her,” said Hope. “Tamaya’s a real Goody Two-shoes.”

The words stung. Just a few seconds earlier, she had been feeling so cool, talking with the older boys. Now they were all looking at her as if she were some kind of freak.

She tried making a joke out of it. “I guess I’ll only wear one shoe from now on.”

Nobody laughed.

“You are kind of a goody-goody,” said Monica.

Tamaya bit her lip. She didn’t get why what she had said had been so wrong. After all, Monica and Summer had just called the boys disgusting and gross, but somehow that was okay. If anything, the boys seemed proud that the girls thought they were disgusting and gross.

When did the rules change? she wondered. When did it become bad to be good?

Across the lunchroom, Marshall Walsh sat amid a bunch of kids, all laughing and talking loudly. On one side of Marshall sat one group. On his other side sat a different group. Between these two groups, Marshall silently ate alone.


SunRay Farm

In a secluded valley thirty-three miles northwest of Woodridge Academy was SunRay Farm. You wouldn’t know it was a farm if you saw it. There were no animals, no green pastures, and no crops--at least, none that grew big enough for anyone to see with the naked eye.

Instead, what you would see--if you made it past the armed guards, past the electric fence topped with barbed wire, past the alarms and security cameras--would be rows and rows of giant storage tanks. You also wouldn’t be able to see the network of tunnels and underground pipes connecting the storage tanks to the main laboratory, also underground.

Hardly anyone in Heath Cliff knew about SunRay Farm, and certainly not Tamaya or her friends. Those who had heard of it had only vague ideas about what was going on there. They might have heard of Biolene but probably didn’t know exactly what it was.

A little more than a year before--that is, about a year before Tamaya Dhilwaddi cut her hair and started the fifth grade--the United States Senate Committee on Energy and the Environment held a series of secret hearings regarding SunRay Farm and Biolene.

The following testimony is excerpted from that inquiry:

SENATOR WRIGHT: You worked at SunRay Farm for two years before being fired, is that correct?

DR. MARC HUMBARD: No, that is not correct. They never fired me.

SENATOR WRIGHT: I’m sorry. I’d been informed--

DR. MARC HUMBARD: Well, they may have tried to fire me, but I’d already quit. I just hadn’t told anyone yet.


SENATOR FOOTE: But you no longer work there?

DR. MARC HUMBARD: I couldn’t be in the same room with Fitzy a minute longer! The man’s crazy. And when I say crazy, I mean one hundred percent bananas.

SENATOR WRIGHT: Are you referring to Jonathan Fitzman, the inventor of Biolene?

DR. MARC HUMBARD: Everyone thinks he’s some kind of genius, but who did all the work? Me, that’s who! Or at least, I would have, if he had let me. He’d pace around the lab, muttering to himself, his arms flailing. It was impossible for the rest of us to concentrate. He’d sing songs! And if you asked him to stop, he’d look at you like you were the one who was crazy! He wouldn’t even know he was singing. And then, out of the blue, he’d slap the side of his head and shout, “No, no, no!” And suddenly I’d have to stop everything I’d been working on and start all over again.

SENATOR WRIGHT: Yes, we’ve heard that Mr. Fitzman can be a bit . . . eccentric.

SENATOR FOOTE: Which is one reason why we are concerned about Biolene. Is it truly a viable alternative to gasoline?

SENATOR WRIGHT: This country needs clean energy, but is it safe?

DR. MARC HUMBARD: Clean energy? Is that what they’re calling it? There’s nothing clean about it. It’s an abomination of nature! You want to know what they’re doing at SunRay Farm? You really want to know? Because I know. I know!

SENATOR FOOTE: Yes, we want to know. That’s why you’ve been called before this committee, Mr. Humbard.



DR. MARC HUMBARD: It’s “Dr. Humbard,” not “Mr. Humbard.” I have a PhD in microbiology.

SENATOR WRIGHT: Our apologies. Tell us, please, Dr. Humbard, what are they doing at SunRay Farm that you find so abominable?

DR. MARC HUMBARD: They have created a new form of life, never seen before.

SENATOR WRIGHT: A kind of high-energy bacteria, as I understand it. To be used as fuel.

DR. MARC HUMBARD: Not bacteria. Slime mold. People always confuse the two. Both are microscopic, but they are really quite different. We began with simple slime mold, but Fitzy altered its DNA to create something new: a single-celled living creature that is totally unnatural to this planet. SunRay Farm is now growing these man-made microorganisms--these tiny Frankensteins--so that they can burn them alive inside automobile engines.

SENATOR FOOTE: Burn them alive? Don’t you think that’s a bit strong, Dr. Humbard? We’re talking about microbes here. After all, every time I wash my hands or brush my teeth, I kill hundreds of thousands of bacteria.

DR. MARC HUMBARD: Just because they’re small doesn’t mean their lives aren’t worthwhile. SunRay Farm is creating life for the sole purpose of destroying it.

SENATOR WRIGHT: But isn’t that what all farmers do?

Meet the Author

LOUIS SACHAR is the author of the #1 New York Times bestseller Holes, which won the Newbery Medal, the National Book Award, and the Christopher Award, as well as Stanley Yelnats’ Survival Guide to Camp Green Lake; Small Steps, winner of the Schneider Family Book Award; and The Cardturner, a Publishers Weekly Best Book, a Parents’ Choice Gold Award recipient, and an ALA-YALSA Best Fiction for Young Adults Book. His books for younger readers include There’s a Boy in the Girls’ Bathroom, The Boy Who Lost His Face, Dogs Don’t Tell Jokes, and the Marvin Redpost series, among many others.

Customer Reviews

Average Review:

Post to your social network


Most Helpful Customer Reviews

See all customer reviews

Fuzzy Mud 4.8 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 8 reviews.
Anonymous 12 months ago
This is real good it will be in the magnoila spirl school go and git the book
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
catloverAD More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Best book ever
feather_lashes More than 1 year ago
Fuzzy Mud is a middle-grade environmental/bioterror/suspense/mystery/thriller/ family drama/comedy novel written by Louis Sachar. Yes...all those genres. It'll keep kids engaged for sure. Louis Sachar knows how to scare kids. He also knows how to get a message across. In this novel, it seems the characters are trying to do good. They're trying to genetically engineer a solution to clean energy. But as history has taught us and will continue to teach us, there are consequences to playing the role of creator...even if you're just creating microorganisms, maybe especially if you're creating microscopic life. "The smaller something is, the harder it is to keep contained. You can put a tiger or a grizzly bear inside a cage, but it's a lot harder to keep a tiny microorganism from escaping." Fuzzy Mud's writing style created a suspense element that was a lot of fun. The progressing story was broken up with pieces of an investigative interview that was obviously conducted after the "almost end of the world". So even if nothing significant has happened yet in the story, the reader knows something huge is coming and that kind of suspense can be scary all by itself. I read this book along with my 6th grade son and I saw his facial expressions morph as the story progressed. It definitely got to him, but that's good! After all, our middle-graders will be the ones who brainstorm world solutions years from now. Maybe genetic engineering will be the answer, but Mr. Sachar is instilling respect and a healthy fear early on. If you have a middle-grader in your life who has not read Louis Sachar before then consider gifting them one of his books. I've only personally read Holes and Fuzzy Mud, but I can attest those two both allow important lessons to sneak in while these young minds are otherwise entertained...or terrified haha. My favorite quote: "Courage just meant pretending to be brave. After all, if you're not scared, then there's nothing to be brave about is there?"
reececo331 More than 1 year ago
Fuzzy Mud by Louis Sachar A young adult book that looks into the caution man needs to exhibit when experimenting with nature. In many cases mankind looks for the immediate benefit of their experimentation, but does not know the full extent of new innovation they create. This is a great book to show children that consequences are not always known, and that people need to have patience, and diligent study to understand what they have created. It’s a great book to share in the classroom with young readers that allows the children, not only to see the benefits of science but the ethics of science. Another feature of the book looks into the reasons behind bullying and how understanding and acceptance is the solution for many cases of errant childhood behaviors. That bully behavior may just be a cry for help.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I heard about this book on the radio because they were interviewing the author and i cant wait to read this !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!