Fuzzy Mud by Louis Sachar

★★★☆☆ (3/5)

But Tamaya always felt proud to put on her sweater with the words Virtue and Valor written in gold, and the year 1924. It made her feel important, like she was a part of history

A quick and exciting read, Louis Sachar’s “Fuzzy Mud” is an inventive children’s tale full of thrill and mystery. Had I read it in my childhood, I would have been far more affected by its spirit of adventure and danger. Nonetheless, after a long time have I been deeply immersed in a fantastical and innocent story meant for children. Had there been a sequel to this short book, I’d have ventured deep into it already.

It felt confusing sometimes, having two different homes. It was like she had two different lives; two half lives. And the two added together didn’t quite equal a whole life. She felt like she was missing something

Tamaya Dhilwaddi is a good fifth-grade kid, an obedient child of divorce with a life split between her mother and father. She might not be street-smart or edgy, but her intelligence makes her question the world around her as she tries to make sense of subtle nuances of school life and her fellow-mates. She is often confused by her friends’ conversations which are meant to attract older boys or by instructions passed on by adults.

Ms. Filbert had said “being quiet” as though it were some sort of abnormal behavior. You’re the one who just told everyone to sit quietly, Tamaya had thought

Marshall Walsh knows Tamaya only through their walks from home to school and back. They are not meant to be friends once they’ve entered the school premises. A seventh-grader, Marshall has lost his clout in school and now spends most of his time alone and friendless. The reason for having lost his spell on fellow classmates is pinned down to the arrival of Chad Wilson, who intimidates Marshall and bullies him into a fight.

They all knew—Andy, Laura, Cody, everybody. So why didn’t anyone do anything? Why hadn’t they stuck up for him? Why had they let Chad make his life so miserable, day after day after day? But that wasn’t the real question, and he knew it. The real question was this: Why hadn’t he stuck up for himself?

When Chad challenges Marshall, the latter opts for a shortcut home through the forbidden woods which border the Woodbridge Academy. Tamaya has no choice but to follow Marshall deep into the forest where puddles of sticky mud catch her attention. Trying to outrun Chad as he pursues them, Tamaya grabs a handful of mud and flings it onto Chad’s face. The two kids make a quick escape, deciding resolutely to not disclose their secret to anyone. Next day at school, Chad is declared missing as Tamaya’s hand becomes bloody and blistered. Only she and Marshall know the last whereabouts of Chad. They inadvertently decide to rescue the missing boy, and in the process, unveil a biological terror fermenting in the woods.

Every time he spoke, his voice came from another part of the room. He could have just been moving around, but it gave Tamaya the impression of some kind of floating spirit

 The story accounts for the tremendous courage fostered by children as they are drawn together in an increasingly complex adult world where parents are either wholly negligent of their kids or are too involved in their work life to pay much heed to their innocence.

Deep down, she was also preparing herself for the worst. In case she didn’t get better, she wanted to be able to face the world with courage, patience, and grace

As is the case with all children’s books, saving the world from grave danger is always accosted through the younger generation and their understanding of the world around them. By the end of the story, all three children cultivate a friendship which would not have been possible without a misadventure.

Ms. Filbert had once said that courage just meant pretending to be brave. “After all, if you’re not scared, then there’s nothing to be brave about, is there?”

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