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”.
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.