2016's Buckeye Children's Book Award winner for grades 3-5 was Fuzzy Mud by Louis Sachar. I love several of Sachar's books, so when I heard about this one I read it immediately! While it isn't my favorite of his books, I wasn't disappointed.
Tamaya and Marshall are friends who have always walked home together. Marshall is struggling with a school bully, who promises to beat Marshall up after school one day. To avoid this, Marshall insists on taking a different route home that day, to which Tamaya reluctantly agrees. Marshall leads them into the woods and the pair ends up getting lost -- but Chad (the bully) has followed them. Chad starts to fight with Marshall, and Tamaya picks up a handful of nearby "fuzzy" mud to throw in Chad's face to help her friend.
The only problem is that the mud Tamaya picked up is full of a microscopic organism called ergonyms. The ergonyms are a result of a nearby facility making a safe biofuel, but are dangerous to living things. Chad's face breaks out in a horrible, debilitating rash, as does Tamaya's hand. Chad also gets his share eventually, and the trio realize they are in a dire situation -- lost in the woods and needing medical attention. Chad's reasons behind his actions come to light in his desperation, but the real suspense comes from the kids trying to survive and the story behind the fuzzy mud -- and what happens after the fuzzy mud becomes known to the rest of the world.
I liked the addition of petri dish drawings, showing the explosive reproduction of the ergonyms, and correlating with the events of the story. There are also cuts of a Senate hearing determining the use and acceptability of the new biofuel, and of the future destruction the ergonyms may have caused. The book leaves off with an uncertain fate of the future, allowing readers to determine what they think may have happened for the characters a few months/years later.
There's a lot for kids to think about with this book; for example, thinking about a government's role (especially with science), the pros and cons of science to aid human development, and repercussions of actions. I'm not surprised this book won. It has the suspense to hold attention, and the plot to make readers think more about the world around them. A great choice for 2016's winner!
Now, it's the end...have you seen the 2017 nominations, Jill? I'm quite excited for a few to possibly win! We'll have to see what happens in the fall!