Fuzzy Mud

Fuzzy Mud Study Guide

Louis Sachar's Fuzzy Mud is a 2015 novel about a fifth-grade girl who discovers a mysterious rash-causing substance in the forest and unwittingly saves the world from a pandemic.

On a Tuesday in November, protagonist Tamaya Dhilwaddi is ready to walk home with Marshall Walsh, a seventh-grader who lives on the same block. She is surprised when Marshall decides against their usual route and leads her on a shortcut through the woods next to their Pennsylvania private school. In the woods, the two encounter Chad Hilligas, a student who has been bullying Marshall. Chad attacks Marshall, who cuts through the woods to avoid having to fight Chad on a street corner. Tamaya throws some mysterious fuzz-covered mud in Chad's eyes, giving her and Marshall an opportunity to escape. The next day, they learn Chad is missing. Tamaya believes the aggressive rash on her arm was caused by the same mud she threw at him. When Marshall refuses to tell the principal about his conflict with Chad, Tamaya goes into the forest on her own, hoping to rescue Chad without involving Marshall. However, Marshall also goes into the forest when he learns Tamaya is missing. When he finds Tamaya and Chad, he is surprised to see that they are cooperating with each other. Chad, now blind from the rash, has confessed to Tamaya that he is mean to others because his family is cruel to him. The three students are soon rescued and brought to the hospital. While they recover from their rashes, the town goes under quarantine to limit the spread of the infectious disease caused by the mud, which is a mutated form of Biolene, an alternative fuel comprising self-replicating slime mold invented by an eccentric college dropout. The crisis abates when a local veterinarian discovers a turtle-enzyme vaccine that cures the rash, and freezing winter temperatures kill off the organisms in the fuzzy mud. Tamaya testifies at a U.S. Senate hearing, where lawmakers thank her for discovering the mud early enough that a pandemic was prevented.

Exploring themes of bullying, hubris, courage, and virtue, Fuzzy Mud depicts young people whose ability to cooperate and overcome their differences incidentally leads to humanity being saved from an infectious disease.