Study Guide

Louis in Sideways Stories From Wayside School

By Louis Sachar


Louis, who shares a first name with author Louis Sachar, is the yard teacher at Wayside School. He's also "the one who wrote this book" (30.2), as he tells you himself in the final chapter. You might think this makes Louis the main character, but he's more like the cool guy in the background—he's not always around, but he shows up at just the right time to save the day or say something funny.

Timing Is Everything

Depending on the situation, Louis can be wise, clueless, or even heroic. One thing's for sure—his fantastic timing is apparent from the very start of the book. In Chapter 1, when the class has just accidentally turned the witch-like Mrs. Gorf into an apple, Louis strolls in and takes care of their problem without even knowing it:

He picked up the apple, which was really Mrs. Gorf, shined it up on his shirt, and ate it. (1.36)

In Chapter 4, Louis sees Sharie fall out of the thirtieth floor window. Unlike her classmates, though, he sees her from the ground below:

He ducked under the volleyball net, hurtled past the kickball field, hopped over the hopscotch court, climbed through the monkey bars, sped across the grass, and caught Sharie just before she hit the ground. (4.15)

The entire class cheers, and Louis gets a big hug from Sharie. Yet again, this yard teacher has saved the day.

Catching falling kids and eating evil teachers isn't exactly in Louis' job description, however. Louis says his job is:

[…] to see that the children didn't have too much fun during lunch and recess. (30.1)

Sometimes Louis does this job really well—just ask Deedee, who's always frustrated because she can never seem to get a coveted green, high-bouncing ball from Louis. But Louis doesn't just distribute balls on the yard (green, red, and one dreaded yellow dud). He also mediates playground arguments, joins in games, and sometimes just chats with the school's wacky cast of kids.

Just Ask Louis

When Calvin is given a baffling job from Mrs. Jewls, it's Louis he finds when he's confused. Calvin, tasked with delivering a non-existent note to a non-existent teacher on a floor that's just not there, immediately thinks, "Louis will know what to do" (7.27). And then Louis breaks it down for him in a way that makes both no sense, and all the sense in the world:

"You are not supposed to deliver no notes to no teachers. You already haven't done it." (7.40)

Calvin still doesn't understand, but that's okay, because Louis admits, "I don't think I understand what I said, either" (7.42). This makes Louis a pretty cool grown-up, as far as the kids are concerned—sometimes he makes no sense at all, and he's not afraid to say so.

Even though Louis seems pretty easygoing, he still tries to enforce rules of fair play. He's firm with kids who won't include their classmates in games, and he always steps in to mediate playground disagreements. He also won't tolerate poor sportsmanship, although his solutions aren't exactly conventional—when Terrence won't stop kicking balls over the fence, Louis kicks Terrence over the fence. Somehow we don't think that teaching strategy would be well-received in an ordinary elementary school, but it's still pretty satisfying to read about.

What makes Louis unique is not his cool, easygoing attitude, his problem solving, or his availability to listen to kids who need an ear. What makes Louis unique is that—somehow—he is the only person at Wayside School who knows that Wayside is "strange and silly." In Chapter 30, Louis' very own chapter, he amuses and horrifies the kids on the thirtieth floor by telling them stories of kids who go to ordinary, everyday schools. He tells them:

"They don't trade names or read upside down. They can't turn mosquito bites into numbers. They don't count hairs on their heads. The walls don't laugh, and two plus two always equals four." (30.37)

How does Louis know all this? Why is he the only one who knows what ordinary elementary schools are like? We have no idea, but since ordinary rules don't seem to apply at Wayside School, it only makes sense that rules don't apply to Louis either. Unless the rules are for kickball, that is.