Study Guide

Sideways Stories From Wayside School Setting

By Louis Sachar


Wayside School

This book is set at Wayside School, which as narrator Louis tells us, was built sideways: thirty stories straight up in the air, instead of thirty classrooms side by side. "The builder said he was very sorry" (I.3) though, apparently. Louis points out that this error gives the school a remarkably large yard, but as we find out over the course of the book, sometimes running up and down the stairs to the thirtieth floor can be tiring and a little bit ridiculous.

Having your classroom on the thirtieth floor provides some unusual challenges. Sharie, who likes to sleep during class, falls out the thirtieth story window and has to be saved by Louis; Deedee, who loves recess games, can never get a high-bouncing green ball because kids from lower floors always get there first; Dameon is run ragged when Mrs. Jewls asks him to send messages back and forth to Louis down on the ground floor. On the up side, though, when a dead rat visits your classroom wearing smelly raincoats, you can totally just toss them out the window.

The builder of Wayside School made another little mistake when building the school too: he forgot to include the nineteenth story. This is not exactly convenient for Miss Zarves, the teacher on the nineteenth story—but it's okay, because there is no Miss Zarves anyway.

These quirks aside, Wayside School seems to have plenty of ordinary school features—an office, a school library, and a lunchroom staffed by the incompetent Miss Mush; two buses run in the afternoon, a kindergarten bus and a later bus. Just like at an ordinary school, some of the kids walk home, like Myron and Dana, and one even arrives on a motorcycle (we're looking at you, Jenny).

But most of the action at Wayside takes place either on the yard or in the classroom on the thirtieth floor. The yard has a fence—perfect for kicking balls or Terrence over—and places to jump rope and play hopscotch and kickball. The thirtieth floor classroom seems pretty ordinary too, other than the fact that the blackboard can chuckle, the desks jump up and down, and the walls sometimes turn purple from laughing. Oh—and on Halloween the ghost of your deceased teacher might decide to walk through the blackboard and pay the class a visit.

On the bright side, Mrs. Jewls always keeps Tootsie pops in a container on top of her desk.