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Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Fuzzy Mud by Louis Sachar. Sydney: Bloomsbury, 2015

If you go down to the woods today ... Well, every child knows NOT to, don't they?

Tamaya is on a scholarship to the prestigious Woodridge Academy and every day she and seventh-grader Marshall walk to school together. They never go through the woods. And when they arrive at school they stop talking to each other – because Marshall can't be seen to be friends with a little kid like Tamaya. Especially not with Chad around. Chad-the-bully, who makes Marshall's life utterly miserable. But today, hoping to avoid Chad, Marshall and Tamaya decide to go through the woods ... And what is waiting there for them is strange, sinister and entirely unexpected.

The next day, Chad doesn't turn up at school – no one knows where he is, not even his family. And Tamaya's arm is covered in a horribly, burning, itchy wound. As two unlikely heroes set out to rescue their bully, the town is about to be turned upside down by the mysterious Fuzzy Mud ... 

I've only read three Louis Sachar novels, including this one. The first was the wonderful Holes, which I believe to be his masterpiece, the book for which he will be remembered. It was on the Year 8 English curriculum at the time. Now we do Literature Circles, but kids kept asking for it, so I put a few copies in the Literature Circles options. If you haven't read it, please do! Or at least see the film, which is fairly faithful to the book and has a cameo appearance by the author and his wife in the nineteenth century scenes, as well as a very young Shia LaBoeuf,  Henry Winkler(the Fonze) as the boy's nutty scientist father, Eartha Kitt having great fun as an old gypsy woman and Sigourney Weaver as the villainous Warden. Oh, and Dule Hill (from West Wing) as the onion seller who wins the heart of Kissin' Kate Barlow when she's a schoolteacher...

 The second one was The Cardturner, also a very good YA book, on the subject of bridge, a game I hadn't realised is as complex as chess, with some kids learning the game and a tournament and a ghost or two...

Fuzzy Mud is aimed at a younger audience and works very well. It has what I suspect to be the Sachar trademark over-the-top humour among the serious stuff. It makes a very good introduction to the eco-thriller and gives children something to discuss in class, about the environment, without preaching at them. There's another over-the-top scientist who is definitely not a bad guy, whatever the results of his experiments.

It's nice to see a children's book that isn't the first of a series! Louis Sachar makes his point, gently but firmly, and then moves on.

Highly recommended for children from about eight upward.

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