Study Guide

Sideways Stories From Wayside School Wisdom and Knowledge

By Louis Sachar

Wisdom and Knowledge

When Joe woke up the next day, he had learned how to count. He had fifty-five thousand and six hairs on his head. They were all curly. (2.62)

Just like Mrs. Jewls promises, one day Joe finds the knowledge he's looking for. Not only does he learn to count, he can count unbelievably well—imagine counting every hair on your head.

"No," said Mrs. Jewls. "That isn't how you measure art. It's not how many pictures you have, but how good the pictures are." (6.28)

We won't get into a debate about fine art with Mrs. Jewls, but she teaches an important lesson to Bebe. Art class isn't about how many cats you can draw—it's all about quality over quantity.

"Yes, I know," said Mrs. Jewls, "but the funniest jokes are the ones that remain untold." (13.30)

Right in the middle of Rondi's hilarious story, we get this amazing statement from Mrs. Jewls: sometimes things are funnier if you don't say them out loud. Whether Mrs. Jewls is right or not, this nugget of wisdom almost sounds like a fortune cookie.

D.J. looked up at him. "You need a reason to be sad," he said. "You don't need a reason to be happy." (16.28)

Possibly the wisest and most touching sentiment in the book, D.J. says this when he explains his mysterious Cheshire Cat grin to Louis. If you remember one thing from this book, remember D.J.'s wise words.

It was easier for John to turn his book upside down than to learn to read correctly. But the easiest way isn't always the best way. (17.4)

Sounds like Star Wars, doesn't it? We can almost imagine John taking the path to the Dark Side if he keeps trying to take the easy way out. John's story is a funny and true reminder that sometimes you have to address a problem even if it isn't an easy thing to do.

You don't like Kathy, do you?

See, she was right!

It's funny how a person can be right all the time and still be wrong. (20.29-31)

Kathy's story, about a kid who doesn't like anyone, ends with this true punch to the gut. Her chapter details all the ways in which she thinks others are always wrong, and it has a lot of wisdom in it, which really comes together in this final sentence.

"You learned that children are really smarter than their teachers," said Mrs. Jewls. "Oh, that's no secret," said Allison. "Everyone knows that." (23.33)

Throughout Sideways Stories, we're never sure who's more clueless, the kids or the teachers. Sometimes the kids make more sense, but sometimes the teachers turn out to be wise after all. In this case, Mrs. Jewls underlines this theme while proving herself to be wiser than she seems.

But a horrible thing happened. Joy couldn't forget about filching Dameon's lunch. And for the rest of the year, every turkey sandwich, piece of chocolate cake, apple, and Tootsie Roll Pop tasted like Miss Mush's porridge. (27.37)

Joy learns the hard way that stealing is wrong, not because she's punished, but because her own conscience turns delicious things sour. This is a good example of knowledge and wisdom earned through making a bad choice.

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