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.
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.
Sideways Stories from Wayside School: Official Scholastic Page
Here's where you can find official information from the publisher of Sideways Stories, including a bio of author Louis Sachar and suggestions for similar books.
Louis Sachar's Website
This is the Wayside School section of author Louis Sachar's own website, which has summaries and information on all six books in the Wayside universe, in case you need more sideways stories in your life. This website also has links to Sachar's other books and a FAQ that includes some burning questions about Wayside School.
Sideways Stories Facebook Page
There doesn't seem to be much activity on this page, but you can show the world you're a fan of Mrs. Jewls and her crew by clicking the "like" button.
Wayside: The Movie
In 2005, a Canadian company produced an hour-long adaptation of the Wayside books, which was later turned into an animated series. The universe isn't exactly the same as the one in the book, but it's still a lot of fun.
Wayside (Cartoon series)
In case movies aren't your thing, check out some episodes of the Wayside television series.
The Most Horrifying Moments from Sideways Stories from Wayside School
This article doesn't have any commentary—it's just a collection of the creepiest passages from Sideways Stories. The comments below the article are hilarious, and not to be missed if you were also a little freaked out by Sammy the dead rat.
Interview Transcripts with Louis Sachar
The Scholastic website has several transcripts of interviews with author Louis Sachar. If you want to know the dirt on how he was inspired to create the kids on the thirtieth floor, look no further.
Sideways Stories Fan Trailer
Here's a brief, fan-made homage to the Wayside books.
Sideways Stories from Wayside School by Four Humors Theater
There are a few YouTube clips of childrens' theater productions of Sideways Stories, and this one is a fun one. Watch as the kids react to Mrs. Gorf transforming into an apple.
Humorous Interpretation: Sideways Stories from Wayside School
This is a clip of a one-woman performance of the Mrs. Jewls chapter of Sideways Stories, by a single actress who does all the different voices of the kids. She does a fantastic job.
Arden Theater Company Production Still
Here's an image from a Philadelphia production of the Sideways Stories children's play. The costumes and sets are perfectly wacky.