Sideways Stories From Wayside School
You might think you're having a bad day at school, but we bet your teacher has never turned you into an apple. Your classroom walls probably don't turn purple from laughing too hard, either—and we're betting dead rats don't try to sneak into your classroom wearing smelly raincoats.
All of this and more, however, is the norm for the kids on the thirtieth floor of Wayside School, where wackiness rules, and silliness is part of the curriculum. Things went weird for Wayside from the start, when the builder stacked the school's thirty classrooms on top of each other rather than placing them side-by-side. (The builder was very sorry, in case you were wondering.) The end result is the strangest, funniest elementary school you'll ever encounter, hilariously described in Louis Sachar's Sideways Stories from Wayside School.
The students at Wayside have problems just like ordinary kids, but their problems don't have ordinary solutions. For instance, if you have itchy mosquito bites at Wayside, you can turn them into numbers since numbers don't itch; if you can only read upside down, then you have to learn to stand on your head; and if life starts to seem a little bland, your teacher might just show up with ice cream made to taste just like you. (If that's not your favorite flavor, she'll whip up something that tastes like one of your friends.)
This book is a collection of stories about each of the kids on the thirtieth floor of Wayside School, written by Louis, the yard teacher at Wayside. There's no overall plot, just a hilarious mix of misadventures as we get to know all of the children and teachers in the bizarre world of Wayside.
By the way, that yard teacher named Louis shares a name with the author, who wrote this book (his first ever) in 1978 after working at an elementary school while he was in college. Since then, he's written four more Wayside books, as well as a pretty famous little novel called Holes, among others. The Wayside universe itself has inspired a kids' cartoon series and a movie, but mostly it's inspired a lot of kids to laugh out loud while they're reading.
Hidden within all the hilarity at Wayside School are some nuggets of wisdom and truth, but you might not notice you're learning something. You'll be too busy laughing.
Why Should I Care?
A lot of books for young readers explore serious issues that kids can experience while growing up. But this book is not one of those. No one's dog dies. No one pushes anyone else out of a tree. No one's parents are killed by a Dark Lord. So sit back, relax, and enjoy, because this book is funny. That's it. No strings attached.
Sure there might be some really clever statements about education hidden amidst all the humor, and some of the humor might actually be kind of twisted and just a little bit dark. And hey—you might even realize that you have something in common with a kid who can only read upside down. But mostly Sideways Stories is here to entertain you and make you laugh.
As Wayside kid D.J. says, "You need a reason to be sad. You don't need a reason to be happy" (16.28). So listen to D.J. and pick up this book. It's sure to put a smile on your face, and that's reason enough in its own right.