Tag Archives: Louis Sachar

Fuzzy Mud

Author: Louis Sacharfuzzy mud

My rating: 4 of 5

It all started when Marshall and Tamaya took a “short cut” through the woods to avoid a bully. Or maybe it was before that, when a scientist caught up in inventing a new, renewable fuel source came up with the idea of Biolene, a genetically engineered microorganism that reproduces every thirty-six minutes. Whatever the case, the moment Tamaya stuck her hand in a muddy puddle covered in strange fuzzy stuff and threw that mud in the face of Chad–the bully who had tracked them down in the woods in spite of their precautions–she became part of a historic disaster on a grand scale. And just maybe, she became the girl who saved the world.

Louis Sachar’s writing is always a treat to read, with his easy humor and readable text. Fuzzy Mud was all of that, but it took a more intense perspective than most of his books. It was excellent. The characters were enjoyable, and they prompted the reader to take another look at bullying–from both sides of the situation. Furthermore, the entire plot was crafted in such a way as to raise ecological awareness about a number of hot topics: fuel shortages, overpopulation, and genetic engineering to name a few. As I said, the actual plot writing was intense, but also middle-grade appropriate. I really enjoyed the way notes from the legal proceedings over Biolene were interspersed within the text in a way almost reminiscent of that used in Carrie. Furthermore, the addition of mathematical equations scattered throughout to demonstrate how quickly one microorganism can become thousands really served to add a great sense of tension, as did the petri-dish illustrations at each chapter header–complete with samples doubling each chapter and spilling over the page! I think for middle-grade and older readers who enjoy an intense but thoughtful biological/ecological thriller, Fuzzy Mud is an excellent choice.

 

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The Cardturner

the cardturnerAuthor: Louis Sachar

My rating: 4 of 5

Alton’s parents have been trying to charm their way into his rich, taciturn great-uncle’s graces for ages, so when Alton gets asked to help “Uncle Lester” (now blind) with his bridge playing, it seems like the opportunity of a lifetime. Took bad that Uncle Lester, better known as Trapp, is not one to be tooled by false charm. As he spends more time with Trapp, Alton grows to truly appreciate both his great-uncle and the game he loves. Who knows, Alton might even figure out how to become a decent bridge player himself–if his parents’ scheming, his best friend’s girl-chasing, and Trapp’s former cardturner’s slightly-crazy attractiveness don’t get in the way.

Normally, I shy away from anything resembling a sport- or game-centric book; I find them appallingly boring. However, anything written by Louis Sachar deserves a try, and I wasn’t disappointed by The Cardturner. The characters come through well, particularly Alton. The first-person tone is excellent–conversational and nice-high-school-kid-ish. There is also sufficient plot aside from the game to keep the story interesting. I think what surprised me most was Sachar’s honest attempts to include bridge into the story: as Alton learned, he explained what he learned in beginners terms, and he typically tied the explanations into the story so that they also had a point (and didn’t just sound like a rule book). The Cardturner flows well, and I found it to be quite enjoyable. I would recommend it both for those who enjoy game-related books and for those who simply enjoy a good slice-of-life, human drama sort of story.

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Wayside School Gets a Little Stranger

wayside school gets a little strangerAuthor: Louis Sachar

Illustrator: Joel Schick

My rating: 4.5 of 5

Wayside School, vol. 3

Wayside School has been closed a grand total of 242 days–to remove all the cows! Now class is back in session, and the students of the 30th floor class are ecstatic to be back (despite having to climb all those stairs). Of course, only at Wayside School could they encounter such a mayhem of colorful poetry, strangely-named pets, twisted hypnotists–and a whole slew of unusual (and potentially dangerous) substitute teachers.

As always, Louis Sachar’s writing is just a bit off–in a way that’s spot on, if that makes any sense. He has a delightful (and slightly unsettling) way of turning the reader’s ordinary perspective of things on its ear–rather as he did Wayside School itself. I truly enjoy the fresh perspective, especially when combined with absolute zaniness as it is in Wayside School Gets a Little Stranger. Read it.

Note: As with all the Wayside School books, I think this would be an enjoyable book to read aloud to an elementary-school classroom.

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Sideways Stories from Wayside School

sideways stories from wayside schoolAuthor: Louis Sachar

Illustrator: Julie Brinckloe

My rating: 4.5 of 5

Wayside School, vol. 1

The wackiness of Wayside School probably started when the builders made a mistake and built the 30 classrooms vertically rather than horizontally like the original plan designed. Or maybe the wackiness runs deeper than that. In any case, the class on the 30th floor is one of the wackiest bunches of kids around. It’s okay though–they would think that we’re way wackier than they are.

Louis Sachar is a master of tall tales and amusing turns of phrase, and in Sideways Stories from Wayside School, he doesn’t disappoint. In this book, the author tells 30 stories (each only a few pages long) about the students in the class on the 30th floor of the strangest school you’ve never seen. This book comes with high recommendations.

Note: This would make an excellent read-aloud book for an elementary school classroom.

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The Chronicles of Harris Burdick

Editor/Illustrator: Chris Van Allsburgthe chronicles of harris burdick

My rating: 5 of 5

The basic premise behind this fantastic collection of short stories is nearly as odd as the stories themselves. Supposedly, a person calling himself Harris Burdick came to editor Peter Wenders sometime around 25 years ago, dropping off a collection of 14 drawings with titles and one-line descriptions. This Burdick then left, promising to bring the accompanying stories  the next day, only to never return. In The Chronicles of Harris Burdick, a group of incredible authors take these illustrations and create the stories that might have accompanied them.

Whatever the truth about Harris Burdick and his illustrations may be, this is an excellent collection of stories from a brilliant group of writers. In keeping with the concepts of the illustrations there is an eerie, Twilight Zone sort of feel to the stories. Mostly, they’re about fairly ordinary people to whom some extraordinary events occur. There is a spine-tingling quality to these stories that is simply delicious. Anyone who likes the unusual, or who simply likes short stories, should check out this creative collection.

Featured Authors: Sherman Alexie, M. T. Anderson, Kate DiCamillo, Cory Doctorow, Jules Feiffer, Stephen King, Tabitha King, Lois Lowry, Gregory Maguire, Walter Dean Myers, Linda Sue Park, Louis Sachar, Jon Scieszka, Chris Van Allsburg, & Lemony Snicket

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