Study Guide

Sideways Stories From Wayside School Foolishness and Folly

By Louis Sachar

Foolishness and Folly

It has been said that these stories are strange and silly. That is probably true. (I.6)

This statement probably encapsulates the theme of the book in a single sentenceā€”Sachar totally acknowledges that he's written something silly, and also makes the reader a part of the silliness by addressing the audience directly.

As you know, when the builder built Wayside School, he accidentally built it sideways. But he also forgot to build the nineteenth story. Since there was no nineteenth story, there was no Miss Zarves. (7.22)

Here's a great example of a foolish statement disguised as something perfectly logical, which makes it even funnier. How can someone forget to build a nineteenth story? Why wouldn't the stories just be re-numbered? At Wayside, we're just supposed to accept the folly.

Every once in a while Maurecia would try to take a bite out of Todd's arm in order to get that very special flavor. (9.29)

In a chapter about ice cream flavored like kids in the classroom, this line stands out as one of the silliest. Not only is it silly to think about Todd-flavored ice cream, it's even sillier to think that Maurecia decides to bite him in order to taste him more often.

"Oh, well, it didn't work," said Mrs. Jewls. "At least we tried. Now I guess we'll have to cut your pants off." (12.35)

When Jason is stuck to a chair by Joy's giant wad of gum, everyone has a different solution for how to free him. Mrs. Jewls, the only adult in the room, comes up with this hilarious (and very silly) idea.

"Oh, this is silly," said Rondi. "Everybody thinks the teeth I don't have are cute. I'm not wearing a coat. Don't you all just love my coat? And what about my third arm? I don't have one. Isn't it lovely?" (13.9)

Poor Rondi is tormented by classmates and adults who fawn over her missing teeth as if they really exist. Finally she snaps and delivers this sarcastic rant. Of course, the silliness comes right back into play when her classmates take her literally.

Rondi slapped herself in the face to make sure she was really there. She was. (13.34)

Can you picture this happening? This is a great example of Sachar's hilarious comic timing. Here Rondi is playing "straight man" while the rest of her classmates laugh at the joke she doesn't tell.

Just before recess, Deedee smeared the cream cheese and jelly all over her face. Then she stuffed her mouth with nuts and hung shredded cheese from her nose. When she closed her eyes, she looked just like a dead rat. (15.35)

Don't you love this strategy for how to look like a dead rat? Deedee's pretty creative, isn't she? This is definitely the silliest thing to do with your lunch, ever.

John placed a pillow on top of her desk. Then he looked under the desk, but he couldn't find the Tootsie Rolls anywhere. (17.28)

After John finally stands on his head, he discovers that although his reading ability is fixed, his sense of up and down is kind of muddled. This is the silly punch line to John's mixed-up story.

"Okay, class," said Mrs. Jewls. "So that we have no more mix-ups, I want everyone to write his name on his pencil."

Dameon spent the rest of the day trying to write his name on his pencil.

Dameon's pencil couldn't write on itself. (24.52-54)

Can you think of anything more foolish than asking kids to write their names on their pencils by using the pencils themselves? Doesn't make a lot of sense, does it?

The children all spun around in different directions until they got so dizzy that they fell over. And when they stood up again, nobody knew who anybody was. (28.43)

In Nancy's chapter, all the kids on the thirtieth floor decide to swap names, and this is how they do it. It's a ridiculous method, but at least nobody pukes.