Fuzzy Mud by Louis Sachar

Fuzzy Mud by Louis SacharFuzzy Mud by Louis Sachar
Published by Random House Children's Books on August 4th 2015
Genres: Young Adult, Mysteries & Detective Stories, Social Issues, Bullying, Nature & the Natural World, Environment
Pages: 192

From the author of the acclaimed bestseller Holes, winner of the Newbery Award and the National Book Award, comes a new middle-grade novel with universal appeal. Combining horror-movie suspense with the issues of friendship, bullying, and the possibility of ecological disaster, this novel will intrigue, surprise, and inspire readers and compel them to think twice about how they treat others as well as their environment. 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.From the Hardcover edition.

School is right around the corner, so right now I’m planning my read alouds for the year. I loved reading the Mercy Watson series to the 1st grade. It was a great way for me to introduce to the little ones the idea of award winning books (Mercy Watson Goes for a Ride was a Theodor Seuss Geisel Honor Book in 2007 ) and promote quality children’s literature. The party was loads of fun, too! I don’t know how much read aloud time I’ll be allotted during the school day this year, but my hope is that each class has their own book and party.

Fuzzy Mud by Louis Sachar is my read aloud pick for the 6th grade. I’m calling it a humorous eco-thriller.

SunRay Farm is the producer of Biolene, a clean energy alternative to gasoline made of slime mold.

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.

Fuzzy Mud by Louis Sachar

The story has alternating 1st person perspectives (Tamaya and Marshall) interspersed with senate hearing transcripts once SunRay Farm’s questionable ecological practices come to light. SunRay Farm is dumping Biolene in the forest behind a private school. The tiny Frankensteins, “ergonyms,” begin to multiply.

The following is more of Jonathan Fitzman’s testimony from the secret Senate hearings:

Senator March: Excuse me, Mr. Fitzman, but I’m having a hard time getting my head wrapped around this. You said there are more than a trillion of your ergonyms in every gallon of Biolene.

Jonathan Fitzman: A lot more.

Senator March: These are man-made organisms, right? So how could you possibly make that many?

Jonathan Fitzman: [Laughs.] You’re right. That would be impossible. I had to make only one.

Senator March: I don’t understand.

Jonathan Fitzman: One ergonym, capable of reproduction. That was the hardest part. That’s what took me so long. The first few ergies I made were unable to survive the cell division process. The poor little fellows kept exploding.

Senator March: What do you mean, exploding?

Jonathan Fitzman: Kaboom! [Laughs.] In the lab, we can watch the images from the electron microscope projected onto a giant computer screen. It’s quite cool. Every time one of my ergies got to the cell division stage—kaboom!—it looked like the Fourth of July.

Senator Wright: But eventually, I take it, you were able to create an ergonym that didn’t explode?

Jonathan Fitzman: The perfect ergonym. It took two and a half years and five hundred million dollars, but we did it. One little ergie. And thirty-six minutes later, we had two. The second one was an exact copy of the first. And thirty-six minutes after that, four. Then eight. Then sixteen. Every thirty-six minutes, the population just keeps on doubling.

Senator March: Even so, to get the trillions of ergies you need for just one gallon of Biolene, it would take years.

Jonathan Fitzman: Not at all. Do the math. In twelve hours we had more than a million of the little guys, and by the next afternoon, more than a trillion. [Sings.] One little, two little, three little ergonyms. Four little, five little, six little ergonyms.

Tamaya, Marshall, and Craig come in contact with the fuzzy mud made of ergonyms and develop a blistery rash that bleeds and oozes puss. It sounds terrifying, but it’s done in a quasi-humorous way that is more gross than scary. Ultimately, there’s a happy ending.

I’m excited about the multiple talking points this book affords me. In less than 200 pages we get to explore social issues, economic issues, civics/politics, and the environment. The last one I’m especially excited to touch upon with the kids as it allows me to share with them Pope Francis’s latest encyclical on the environment called Laudato Si’. I may first have to explain to them what an encyclical is!

A papal document treating of matters related to the general welfare of the Church, sent by the Pope to the bishops. Used especially in modern times to express the mind of the Pope to the people. Although of themselves not infallible documents, encyclicals may (and generally do) contain pronouncements on faith and morals that are de facto infallible because they express the ordinary teaching of the Church. In any case, the faithful are to give the papal encyclicals their interior assent and external respect as statements of the Vicar of Christ. (Etym. Latin encyclicus; Greek enkyklios, circular, general.) [source]

Laudato Si’ is entirely about the environment and our role in climate change. You can read it for free online on the Vatican website or as a .PDF. You can also buy a copy of it formatted for ereaders and print. Pope Francis ruffled feathers from the 1st paragraph.

1. “LAUDATO SI’, mi’ Signore” – “Praise be to you, my Lord”. In the words of this beautiful canticle, Saint Francis of Assisi reminds us that our common home is like a sister with whom we share our life and a beautiful mother who opens her arms to embrace us. “Praise be to you, my Lord, through our Sister, Mother Earth, who sustains and governs us, and who produces various fruit with coloured flowers and herbs”.[1]

2. This sister now cries out to us because of the harm we have inflicted on her by our irresponsible use and abuse of the goods with which God has endowed her. We have come to see ourselves as her lords and masters, entitled to plunder her at will. The violence present in our hearts, wounded by sin, is also reflected in the symptoms of sickness evident in the soil, in the water, in the air and in all forms of life. This is why the earth herself, burdened and laid waste, is among the most abandoned and maltreated of our poor; she “groans in travail” (Rom 8:22). We have forgotten that we ourselves are dust of the earth (cf. Gen 2:7); our very bodies are made up of her elements, we breathe her air and we receive life and refreshment from her waters.

Nothing in this world is indifferent to us

I love Pope Francis.

I love Fuzzy Mud, too. I’m hoping the kids like it just as much because I’m already brimming with party ideas.

Happy, Happy

Bok Choy-1

I made a mistake with my last CSA box. I ordered 4 units of bok choy. I thought I was ordering 4 heads of bok choy. Incorrect! I opened up my box and found 12 heads of quasi-cabbage. There aren’t enough recipes in all of Pinterest to deal with that much bok choy. I’m tempted to go on a walk and find a homeless rabbit. You know my walks; it could happen.

Good thing I’m eating healthier. Today I’m 16 days sugar and flour free, which means I have plenty of room for vegetables in my diet. I feel much better overall and my face hasn’t looked this good in years. Today I left the house without makeup and no one asked me what happened or if I was okay. 

I’m so happy I made the decision to buckle down and commit to my diet. I’m so bummed eating sugar and flour is so bad for me. I’m still waiting for someone to publish a dietetics study that definitively proves that sugar, fat, and caffeine is the human race’s perfect diet.

The Boys’ Tops Are Done!

TShirts 0-1

I can check the boys’ tops off the list! The process went smoothly, which is a benefit of my 3+ years of purging coupled with judicious clothes shopping. I not sure how this would have gone had I taken on the KonMari method of tidying up pre-The William Morris Project. I know, that sounds discouraging and pessimistic to say to people eager to jump in and experience the “life-changing magic” of tidying up. Think about it: Kondo wants us to get rid of everything that doesn’t “spark joy” and learn a new way (the “right” way) of folding and storing clothing. She’s asking a lot, especially when she admits this process took her years of trial and error to develop.

Most adults know how to walk, but a toddler doesn’t. A toddler’s ability to walk adeptly builds upon the initial stumbles and missteps. The learning process is priceless and ongoing. I’m proof of that. After three years of getting rid of possessions and clutter I still had to buy Kondo’s book twice because I lost the first one in a purse I forgot to empty, and only found the purse and book while moving furniture for another reason!

It’s risky to discredit the need for trial and error when figuring out what works in your home.

I can’t count the number of times I’ve purged my closet or rearranged my drawers, but I can say that each time I’ve done it the process is easier and faster. To claim this is the one true way and that no one relapses is bold. Possibly disingenuous. Definitely stupid.


I put all the boys’ tops on the bed in the guest bedroom. If you follow me on Instagram, this picture looks familiar. I may be delusional, but I think that’s a reasonable amount of tops for two boys. Ok, reasonable may be a stretch. The pile is better described as your typical, middle-class excess.


Here is the same pile folded, post-purge. I got rid of very little. The broadcloth, collared shirts are hanging in the closet. No pictures of those today because the closet is a disaster. Now there is an area that I have cleaned, purged, and reorganized over and over again. I’m still looking for the magic configuration!

TShirts 4

TShirts 5

The boys’ jerseys and slippery workout shirts wouldn’t stand up on their own until they were practically rolled up like burritos. (You know you’ve folded your shirt correctly if it can stand up on its own, according to Kondo)

TShirts 3

Which brings me to the subject of Kondo’s folding method. At first, I grumbled. It took me a while, but I quickly picked it up and was folding “properly” by the 5th t-shirt. I had to adapt the method with more folds so that the t-shirts fit in the shallower vintage dresser drawers.

There is no doubt about it: the drawers look great. Kondo’s folding method is space efficient, too. Before, their drawers were fit to busting. Now, there is plenty of room for more t-shirts (they’re not getting more t-shirts). You can see most of the t-shirts at a glance. You can’t see the t-shirts at the very back of the drawer unless you pull the drawer all the way out, so our t-shirts fill the first 3/4 of the drawer. We’re still left with more space than we had before so it’s worth filing them rather than laying them flat.

How long the t-shirts stay looking pretty and organized remains to be seen. I give it four days.

Only empty houses stay perfectly clean and organized.

I’m not fooled into thinking the boys are going to tip-toe through their t-shirts so they remain pristine. They’ll get messed up and the system may fail. I refuse to beat myself up over calamitous dresser drawers. Kids are kids, life happens.

Next up, my tops.

The New Mrs. Kendall

In so many ways. Again.

There are changes with the blog and changes with my own personal life. Let’s begin at the beginning.

Vintage Children's Librarian

Chatham Square Branch, children lined up at librarian’s desk, April 11, 1910; “The Night Library”

I’ll get the personal life change over with first since there’s not much to tell.

I’m no longer working as a classroom aide.

I knew when school started last year that my position was a test run. By the time school ended last year my position was tenuous at best for budgetary reasons. I was having doubts about returning as an aide so a small part of me was hoping the decision would be removed from my shoulders. It was!

I’m still the school’s (volunteer) librarian.

Several people have questioned my decision to return as a volunteer, but I believe the children are worth it. I have a unique opportunity to expose them to books in a way only a school librarian can. Me, someone who isn’t even a “real” librarian! It’s amazing to think that decades from now there may be an adult who credits me for their love of reading. I’d be happy with just one adult! School libraries are important. I believe I’m making a difference. If the only way I can do that is as a volunteer, then so be it.

I’m sad about the news, but I’m also happy. It’s going to give me much more time to write here, which brings me to the other news.

Niagara Falls librarians, 1955

Niagara Falls librarians, 1955

I changed up the site and didn’t break the internet (permanently).

A number of you wondered why I returned to my old PFF url and redirected my Mrs. Kendall blog/url to PFF. If you didn’t notice I did that–surprise! I did, for many reasons, though I’ll only touch upon the top 3 to keep the tears of boredom at a minimum.

First, I was having too many technical issues over at blogger. Like many of you predicted, problems with engagement were frequent and numerous. Comments disappeared, or went into spam folders, or were never published. I pride myself in responding to most, if not all, comments, so to see engagement drop like it did killed me.

Second, I missed my plugins, especially Ultimate Book Blogger. I rely on that plugin for all my book posts, and since I couldn’t give it up, I would write the post in wordpress, copy it, and then paste it in blogger. It was an ineffective use of my time.

Third, The Mister hated the blog at blogger. When your biggest fan doesn’t want to read your blog, that’s a problem. He does all his reading on his phone and the site’s mobile responsiveness was pathetic.

The move back here was the easiest route to take, but it also made the most sense. I have more readers here and far better engagement. Redirecting everyone over to another url in less than a year was too much for me to ask. Yeah, the url switches to Pancakes and French Fries and that drives me nuts (I like everything to match) but I’ve been told there’s not much I can do about that without compromising 8 years of links.

It’s been suggested that I return to the old blog name, Pancakes and French Fries, but it’s not an option. That name represents an excess I’m no longer about and is linked in my mind to a shared experience I had with a childhood friend I no longer see. In short, the name represents someone I no longer am and a friendship that no longer exists.

Facts about the new blog.

Mrs. Kendall is who I am–at least to the kids at school–and the new design reflects, I hope, the path of easygoing simplicity I started a few years ago with this post. (A post very dear to my heart.)

The logo is premade from Marusella on etsy. My boys love origami so one day, after trying countless different logo options, I searched for “origami logo” just to see what came up. Success! I chose a bird because of Buttercup, of course, but also because most birds symbolize freedom, transition, and closeness to God. All good goals in my book. My bird is yellow, the color of joy and intellectual freedom–it’s also my favorite color.

The theme I’m running is Foodie Pro by Shay Bocks. It’s simple in appearance but has quite a few handy…things I don’t fully understand that make it easy for me to fiddle with.

The blog is mobile responsive. At least it should be–let me know if it isn’t. I can’t read anything on my cell phone–not even texts! If someone texts me while I’m at home and they have an iphone, I immediately switch to my laptop and text from there. I’m too farsighted to take any pleasure from using my phone for anything more than taking pictures–and I only view instagram from my ipad.

Navigating the site should be easier. I spent 4 days deleting hundreds of categories down to a respectable handful. I’m still putting posts in the correct categories! I have 300 posts to go. I told myself that if I recategorized 10 posts per day I’ll be done in a month.

  • Animals: posts about our pets over the years, though there are some posts about animals in general
  • Books: posts about books, book reviews, book club, etc.
  • Catholic: posts about religion in general and Catholicism in particular
  • Diet: posts about weight and allergies
  • Entertainment: I was surprised to see how often I post about TV shows and movies
  • Family + Friends: stories about us, for the most part
  • Greatest Hits: these are some of my most popular posts or posts I’m proud of
  • Instructions: DIY posts I’ve written
  • Jumble: everyone needs a miscellaneous post category for posts like…this one
  • KonMari: I’m following her book for the next 6 months at least, so it seemed practical
  • Library: my work as a volunteer librarian
  • Mind + Body: my walks, my Happy, Happy posts, my attempts at personal transformation

I know this doesn’t seem like much, but for me this has been a huge undertaking two months in the making–and I’m not done. My friends Carey and Deanna were instrumental in putting it all together. Deanna, especially, helped me not only with the theme, but in bringing my site back online when I did something that resulted in my blog disappearing. Literally disappearing. Lesson learned: never mess with function codes.

And that, my friends, completes my state of the blog address. If you see anything wrong functionally or aesthetically, please let me know. I will what I can and hire out what I can’t.

p.s. I’m sorry if I seem a little off. I’ve had a headache all day that I can’t shake! I think it’s the triple digit heat we’ve had this week. Boy, I sure am looking forward to folding 2398438 shirts into little KonMari rectangles. O_o

Happy, Happy

Nico Allergies-1

The results are in! Nico does not have Mast Cell Activation Disorder! The blood work came back and showed he is allergic to pine nuts. How a pine nut got into a kitchen that swears is nut-free is a mystery I can’t investigate from California. Even the “pesto” they use from the manufacturer is supposedly nut-free. I called Morningstar, the maker of the veggie burger he ate, and they assured me there were no nuts of any kind in that burger (I gave them the lot number). Then they offered me coupons for free product.

“I think I’m going to pass,” I said.

Our best guess is that the pesto was mislabeled or there was cross-contamination. He’s only allergic to pine nuts, which his allergist says is one of the rarer allergies to cause anaphylaxis. Pine nuts are actually seeds from the pine tree but are grouped with tree-nuts due to their cross-reactivity. We’ve been advised that Nico should avoid all tree-nut and peanut products, including those items made in facilities that handle the same due to potential cross-reactivity and cross-contamination. I’m not sure if he should also avoid seeds. I need to call his allergist about that and because I’ve been ai found some studies that show pine pollen can exacerbate a reaction to pine nuts. We were in Lake Tahoe–is that a coincidence? My logical side says yes, more than likely. The mother in me says we should go to change.org and petition for the elimination of all pine trees and plants that share the same botanical family.

This isn’t our first time as a nut-free family. It’s rare for a pine nut allergy to return, but here we are. It can happen! I’m a little rusty, but I’m making my way around the grocery store. I found a cereal by an Australian company named Freedom Foods that is made in a dedicated nut-free facility. The boys loved it so, yay! Cereal, baked items, almost everything from a health food store–they’re likely going to have nuts or be made in a facility that handles them. We’ll figure it out. My most pressing concern is school lunches. What do you give a pescetarian child for lunch if they can’t have tree-nuts or peanuts? He can only eat so much tuna safely. Sunflower seed butter once I get the okay, sure, but what else? Dear God, I need to go to Pinterest again, don’t I?