Fuzzy Mud Summary

Louis Sachar

Fuzzy Mud

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Fuzzy Mud Summary

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Set at Woodridge Academy in Pennsylvania during November and December, American author Louis Sachar’s children’s novel, Fuzzy Mud (2015), follows Tamaya Dhilwaddi and Marshal Walsh, best friends who walk to and from school together every day. However, when their daily routine is suddenly interrupted by school bully Chad Hilligas, they decide to avoid confrontation by taking a shortcut through the woods their parents have forbidden them from entering. When Tamaya and Marshall get lost in the woods and discover a bizarre mutated mud, they must stick together to ensure their survival. Fuzzy Mud became a New York Times bestseller and was named a Junior Library Guild Selection as well a Financial Times Best Book of the Year. The novel has been called an “engaging eco-cautionary tale” by School Library Journal; Booklist claims it “holds as much suspense as fuel for discussion.”

Narrated in the third-person perspective, the story begins during November in Heath Cliff, Pennsylvania. Tamaya Dhilwaddi, a normal fifth-grade girl whose parents are divorced, splits her days between her mother and father’s houses. Because of all the traveling, Tamaya feels as if she is missing out on time with her friends. Her mother pays to send her to a prestigious school called Woodridge Academy. Given her young age, Tamaya’s mother asks a seventh-grade boy, Marshall Walsh, to escort Tamaya to and from school every day. Marshall happily agrees. However, during the new school year, Chad Hilligas, a mean boy, arrives and is placed in Marshall’s class. At first, Chad’s tales of criminal behavior and motorcycle riding impress everyone. His classmates soon realize Chad isn’t someone with whom to mess around. During one of his stories at lunch, Marshall makes a harmless remark that triggers a violent outbreak from Chad. Chad also dislikes Marshall because they share the same birthday, during which Marshall receives his favorite lasagna from his parents, while Chad’s parents gave him nothing. Unaware of what is really bothering Chad deep down, Chad tells Marshall in front of the entire cafeteria that he wants to fight him after school.

In an attempt to avoid confrontation, Marshall decides to take a shortcut through the woods rather than meet Chad on the street. Tamaya escorts Marshall. Afraid they might get in trouble for entering the forbidden woods, Marshall assures Tamaya the shortcut will get them home quickly. However, once they enter the woods, Tamaya and Marshall become lost. They split up, attempting to flee the woods alone. Tamaya encounters Chad in the woods. Chad is looking for Marshall to beat him up. Marshall comes running to save Tamaya but is violently attacked by Chad. Acting fast, Tamaya picks up a handful of mud and hurls it into Chad’s face. While Chad is distracted, Tamaya and Marshall escape the woods and make it home. Chad is left in the woods alone.

Later that night, Tamaya notices a severe rash on her hands where the mud touched her skin. The rash worsens the following day, prompting her to visit the nurse’s office. After a brief exam, Nurse Latherly concludes that the rash must be the result of a peanut allergy. While in the office, however, Tamaya realizes that Chad must be suffering from similar symptoms since the mud touched him as well. Tamaya flees school and heads into the woods to locate Chad in the spot where she last saw him. When she finally finds Chad, she explains that she is there to help with the rash on his face. Unfortunately, there is little Tamaya can do when she discovers the mud has made Chad blind. Tamaya and Chad share an intimate conversation, in which Chad reveals the reason why he has been so mean to the other children in the past.

When Marshall learns Tamaya is absent from school, he dashes into the woods to look for her. Eventually locating Tamaya and Chad, Marshall is surprised to learn they’ve become friends. Marshall helps guide Tamaya and Chad out of the woods back to safety. However, all three are covered with the rash and exhausted from trekking through the woods. A search team rescues them, bringing them back into town. With time, the rash begins to heal and the children begin to recover. Later, doctors discover that the fuzzy mud contains single-celled microorganisms called Ergonyms. The fuzzy mud is a mutated byproduct of an alternative fuel experiment conducted by local eccentric Jonathan Fitzman. The mud has caused a massive outbreak among thousands of animals and humans in the area, resulting in a public cover-up. When the outbreak escalates, widespread quarantines and lockdowns are ordered.

While at the hospital, Tamaya is given sponge baths to relieve her rash. Chad receives a facial skin graft. Jonathan Fitzman visits Tamaya in the hospital when he hears about her rash. Feeling depressed and responsible for causing her condition, Jonathan apologies to Tamaya and offers her a gift of her choosing. Tamaya selects a brand new school uniform as her gift, which Jonathan honors. At the end of the novel, all three children are given a dose of turtle DNA because the DNA is immune to the fuzzy mud. By the end of December, the doctors find a cure for the outbreak caused by the fuzzy mud. Tamaya, Marshall, and Chad make full recoveries and become close friends as well.

Sachar has written several series, including the Wayside School series, Marvin Redpost series, Holes series, as well as standalone titles such as Johnny’s in the Basement, Someday Angeline, Sixth Grade Secrets, There’s a Boy in the Girl’s Bathroom, The Boy Who Lost His Face, Dogs Don’t Tell Jokes, and The Card Turner.