Sideways Stories From Wayside School Summary
Twenty-eight kids, two teachers, a ghost, and a dead rat… Yup, sounds like a normal day at Wayside School. Each chapter of this book is an individual mini-story about a single one of these characters, usually trying to solve some kind of silly problem in the backwards world of Wayside. Through these thirty stories we get to know all the denizens of Wayside School and learn that even though their problems may be ridiculous, they're not all that different from "normal" kids after all.
- Let's get straight to the point: This is a very funny book. It's also based on a quirky premise, and Louis Sachar doesn't waste any time explaining it. "Wayside School was actually built sideways," he says. "It was supposed to be one story high, with thirty classrooms in a row. Instead it is thirty stories high, with one classroom on each story. The builder said he was very sorry" (I.2-3).
- This doesn't make any sense, but that's kind of the point of Sideways Stories from Wayside School. This book turns everything sideways, and the wacky architecture of the school might actually be the most normal thing about this totally nonsensical place.
- So we learn from the introduction that we're about to be treated to thirty stories about the children and teachers at Wayside School. The author himself admits up front: we're in for some serious weirdness. "It has been said that these stories are strange and silly," he says. "That's probably true. However, when I told stories to you about the children at Wayside, they thought you were strange and silly. That is probably also true"(I.6).
- We bet you didn't know you were a part of this story too. Well, now you do.
- When our story begins, Mrs. Gorf is the teacher in the classroom on the thirtieth story of Wayside School. The first thing we learn about her is that she likes to turn children into apples by wiggling her ears and sticking out her tongue: "Mrs. Gorf didn't like children, but she loved apples" (1.2). Yikes.
- One by one, Mrs. Gorf turns the children in her classroom into apples. They don't even need to misbehave—she turns Todd into an apple for getting a math problem wrong—and then she leaves all of the apples on her desk overnight, even though "their parents were very worried" (1.13).
- In less than two days, Mrs. Gorf turns twelve kids into apples.
- Enter Louis, the yard teacher. Certainly—since he's an adult and all—he'll be able to deduce that something is very wrong in this half-empty classroom. Right? Wrong. Louis' hilarious logic doesn't help the situation: "She must be a good teacher if so many children bring her apples" (1.22), he thinks.
- The next day, Louis comes back to see twenty-four apples on the desk and only three kids in the classroom. Surely he'll clue in at this point, right? Nope—more apples just must mean Mrs. Gorf is "the best teacher in the world" (1.23), as far as Louis is concerned.
- Needless to say, by the end of the week, "all of the children were apples" (1.24). Mrs. Gorf is absolutely thrilled, because with no kids left to teach, she's just wiggled her ears into a permanent vacation.
- Not so fast there, Mrs. Gorf.
- Kid-turned-apple Todd speaks up and organizes his fellow apples, and an apple rebellion ensues. Todd bops Mrs. Gorf on the nose, inspiring his classmates to do the same.
- Unable to withstand a massive apple attack, Mrs. Gorf turns all the apples back into children. When they threaten to get Louis and spill Mrs. Gorf's secret, Mrs. Gorf starts wiggling her ears, but Jenny holds up a mirror, and Mrs. Gorf turns herself into an apple. Oops.
- Louis walks in and asks where Mrs. Gorf is, but the kids remain silent. Louis sees a shiny new apple on the desk. Thinking Mrs. Gorf won't mind, he eats it for a snack.
- How'd you like them apples, Mrs. Gorf?
- Mrs. Jewls, who has a "terribly nice face" (2.1), arrives at Wayside School to take the place of former apple Mrs. Gorf.
- The children on the thirtieth floor have been without a teacher for three days since they never told anyone what happened to Mrs. Gorf. You'd think they'd be thrilled to have a lovely new teacher, but since everything at this school seems to be totally backwards, the kids are terrified: "[…] They were terribly afraid of nice teachers" (2.2). Of course they are.
- Mrs. Jewls, as it turns out, is equally terrified: "She had never taught cute children. She was horribly afraid of cute children" (2.3). Sounds about right for Wayside, right?
- Both kids and teacher forget all this terror though, once Mrs. Jewls mistakes her entire class for a group of monkeys, assuming that they were "much too cute to be children" (2.5).
- Mrs. Jewls refuses to believe that the children aren't monkeys, and it takes a lot of persuading to get her to change her mind. And once she changes her mind, she makes them take a test.
- Jason comments that he "liked it better when she thought we were monkeys" (2.37). Jason, we're with you—if only all teachers gave out bananas instead of tests.
- From now on, we start to meet the students on the thirtieth floor, one by one. Our first new friend is Joe, who has curly hair, but he's got no idea how much. This is Joe's main challenge at school: "he couldn't count at all" (3.1).
- Mrs. Jewls keeps Joe inside at recess to give him extra help with his counting. She asks him to count to ten. His problem is obvious—he counts to ten, and says ten different numbers along the way, but the numbers aren't in any kind of order, and some of them are even higher than ten. Good grief.
- Mrs. Jewls tries to teach Joe to count correctly by counting pencils, books, and potatoes, but this doesn't help Joe at all. He keeps counting randomly, but always stops at the right quantity. "You got the right answer, but you counted the wrong way" (3.18), Mrs. Jewls says. (Incidentally, what is a teacher doing with a bunch of potatoes in her desk?)
- Mrs. Jewls tries a new tactic—she has Joe count from one to ten, repeating after her. But this doesn't help either. Instead he just keeps counting to ten, even if there aren't ten objects. "When I count the wrong way I get the right answer, and when I count the right way I get the wrong answer," Joe complains.
- Poor Mrs. Jewls does what we all might do in this situation—she hits her head against the wall. Joe tries to count how many times she does it… and yet again, he gets the right answer by counting wrong.
- By the end of recess Joe has failed to make progress; the other children return to the class and tease him for not being able to count. Mrs. Jewls writes Maurecia's name on the blackboard under the word discipline for teasing Joe.
- Mrs. Jewls comforts Joe by telling him he'll get it someday. "One day it will just come to you," she says. "You'll wake up one morning and suddenly be able to count" (3.57).
- Joe wonders what he's doing in school if all he has to do is wake up one morning to understand something. It's a very good question. Mrs. Jewls gives an even better answer: "School just speeds things up" (3.59), she says. Isn't that school in a nutshell?
- True to Mrs. Jewls' word, Joe wakes up the very next day and knows how to count, right down to every curly hair on his head, all fifty-five thousand and six of them. Nice work, Mrs. Jewls.
- Sharie is a tiny girl with big eyelashes and an even bigger coat, who spends her class time staring out of the window. Since Mrs. Jewls tends to be the opposite of every teacher in the world, this is, of course, perfectly fine with her. As Mrs. Jewls says, "a lot of people learn best when they stare out a window" (4.2). And similarly, Mrs. Jewls doesn't even mind if Sharie falls asleep in class.
- Since Sharie spends all of her time either staring out the window or sleeping, Mrs. Jewls thinks she's the "best student in the class" (4.4).
- One hot day, Sharie falls into a deep sleep due to her hot, huge coat—so Mrs. Jewls points Sharie out as a good example to the class. Sharie tosses, turns… and then falls out of the window.
- Since the classroom is thirty floors up, Sharie has a very long way to fall. She has such a long way, in fact, that she falls ten stories before she wakes up and doesn't know where she is. But Sharie doesn't seem to be worried that she's plummeting through the air—she just "yawned, pulled the hood back over her eyes and went to sleep" (4.14). It's official: this kid can sleep anywhere.
- But perhaps you're worried about Sharrie's safety instead of awed by her ability to sleep. Worry not—Louis the yard teacher scrambles to the rescue and catches her just in time.
- Sharie seems unaware of her near-death experience: "What did you go and wake me up for?" (4.18) she asks Louis.
- Louis carries her all the way back up to class.
- Strangely, Sharie can't sleep that night. We wonder why...
- All of the kids are chattering away while Todd sits quietly, thinking.
- Practically as soon as he opens his mouth to share the idea he's just had though, Mrs. Jewls reprimands him for speaking, writes his name under the word discipline on the board, and tells him to try harder to be quiet like the other students.
- Wait a second—haven't all the other students been talking this whole time too?
- Todd is amazed that he's the one in trouble. But it's true that "All of the other children, who were fighting and screaming only a few seconds earlier, were quietly working in their workbooks" (5.4) all of a sudden. Todd is as confused as we are about this shift.
- Mrs. Jewls uses the "three strikes" rule for discipline: name on the board, then a check by the name, then a circle. Circle means you're out—sent home for the day.
- Joy leans over to ask Todd what page he's working on, and Todd whispers back. Joy keeps bothering him. Todd doesn't want to compete: "It isn't a race" (5.14), he says.
- Joy finally shouts loudly, in front of the class, "I'M ON PAGE TWO HUNDRED!" (5.17). Todd tries to make her quiet down and says, "Will you please let me do my work and stop bothering me!" (5.18).
- Again Mrs. Jewls reprimands Todd for talking in class. What the heck?
- Todd tries his best to behave. Apparently he's been sent home early every single day from school. At an ordinary school this would be hard to believe—but this is Wayside.
- Suddenly, there's a knock at the classroom door and two masked robbers burst inside asking for money. The students tell them they don't have any. "It's not a bank, it's a school," Todd explains. "Can't you read?" (5.30).
- Nope, the robbers can't read. They demand something valuable from the class.
- Todd tells them they do have something valuable: knowledge. He gives Joy's workbook to the robbers and says, "Knowledge is much more valuable than money" (5.34).
- The robbers leave without doing any damage. One of them thinks maybe he should become a scientist instead. Todd has saved the day, but—of course—his heroism goes totally unnoticed.
- The kids go back to work. Joy gets a new workbook, and a triumphant Todd asks her what page she's on. Whoops—that's three strikes, Todd. Todd goes home on the kindergarten bus.
- This time, however, at least the kids notice his heroics: "All the children stood up, clapped their hands, and whistled" (5.44). Todd just scratches his head in confusion.
- Bebe Gunn, adorable young artist, is "the fastest draw in Mrs. Jewls' class" (6.1). This doesn't mean she's good with weapons—nope, it means she's a speed demon with a box of crayons.
- Bebe uses art class to draw as many pictures as possible. In one art period, "she could draw fifty cats, a hundred flowers, twenty dogs, and several eggs or watermelons" (6.3).
- You'd think Bebe would be a one-girl art factory, but she has help. Calvin sits next to Bebe in art, and he doesn't think he's a very good artist, so instead he spends his art periods handing Bebe paper and supplies.
- Bebe and Calvin work together during art class one day, and with a lot of hard work, they break their old record—Bebe draws three hundred and seventy-eight pictures. Both of them are exhausted.
- Mrs. Jewls asks Calvin if he drew the pictures. When Calvin says he didn't draw anything, Mrs. Jewls asks if this is because he doesn't like art. "I love art," Calvin replies. "That's why I didn't draw anything" (6.24). Perfect response, Calvin.
- Mrs. Jewls explains that art is all about quality, not quantity. "Why, a person could spend his whole life just drawing one picture of a cat," she explains. "But if that one picture is better than each of Bebe's two million, then that person has produced more art than Bebe" (6.28). Ouch, Mrs. Jewls.
- Bebe's entire worldview is shattered by her teacher's explanation, and she tosses her pictures in the garbage and runs from the room.
- Louis spots Bebe leaving school and asks where she's going. She says she's going home to draw a picture of a cat. Louis asks if she can bring it tomorrow, but Bebe says she probably won't even be finished with one whisker by then. This artist has changed her style.
- Mrs. Jewls recruits Calvin, who has a "big, round face" (7.1), to deliver a message to Miss Zarves on the nineteenth story. There's only one problem with this request: At Wayside School, there is no Miss Zarves. And the nineteenth story doesn't exist. (Okay, it's technically two problems—no such teacher, no such floor.)
- This doesn't seem to bother Mrs. Jewls, who tells Calvin he'll go home early unless he delivers the message; the other kids laugh as Calvin leaves the room. Of course Mrs. Jewls has also neglected to give him the note. "I'm supposed to take a note I don't have to a teacher who doesn't exist, and who teaches on a story that was never built," Calvin thinks.
- Calvin walks up and down between the eighteenth and twentieth stories of the building, but he can't find the nineteenth. It's just not there.
- He decides to go to the administration office and leave the note in Miss Zarves' box, but he finds that she doesn't have a box. He decides this is okay, because after all, he doesn't have a note.
- Calvin decides to go find Louis, because "Louis will know what to do" (7.27). He finds Louis playing basketball and explains his problem. "It's very simple," Louis answers. "You are not supposed to take no notes to no teachers. You already haven't done it" (7.40).
- Calvin and Louis decide they have no idea what Louis just said, but Calvin goes back to class anyway.
- Mrs. Jewls praises Calvin for delivering the note when he gets back to class. The other students have no idea how he did it. Mrs. Jewls says the note was very important, because she "told Miss Zarves not to meet her for lunch" (7.51). She rewards Calvin with a Tootsie pop.
- Calvin thanks her and says, "it was nothing" (7.54)—which is exactly what it was.
- Myron, who has big ears, is the class president. He thinks of himself as a good listener. Maybe the ears help? But despite his listening skills, he doesn't know what a class president is supposed to do.
- Mrs. Jewls tells Myron that the class president is supposed to turn the classroom lights on and off every day. He tells her it doesn't sound like a very important job, but agrees to do it anyway.
- On the way home, Myron finds Dana, whose dog, Pugsy, has been hit by a car. Myron picks up the injured dog and carries her two miles to the vet. He tells Dana not to worry.
- Dana forgets to thank Myron, but he doesn't mind—"He thought that was what being class president was all about" (8.26).
- The next morning Myron goes to Dana's house to check on Pugsy, who has made a complete recovery. Pugsy bites Myron's hand, and Dana explains that since Pugsy was unconscious, maybe she doesn't recognize him; Myron gets a bandage and goes to school.
- Myron is late because of the dog bite, but no one else has turned on the lights. His classmates are sitting in the dark. He asks why someone else didn't turn them on, but Mrs. Jewls says, "Because you're class president" (8.36).
- Mrs. Jewls makes Stephen the new class president because Myron failed to turn on the lights. Myron shows Stephen how to operate the light switch, but it takes Stephen a week to learn his new duties. (Maybe he's really cut out for a job in politics.)
- Even though Myron was president for only a day, "he was the best president in the history of Wayside School," our narrator tells us. "It's just that nobody knew it" (8.40).
- Tough crowd.
- Here's what we need to remember about Maurecia: She's sweet, pretty, well-liked, and can beat up any boy in the class. Everyone likes her, except for Kathy, but Maurecia doesn't like anyone—she only likes ice cream.
- You'll have to suspend reality here, but every day Maurecia brings an ice cream cone for lunch and keeps it in her desk. She brings dozens of flavors to school, but eventually tires of them all. She ends up with a sticky desk and an unhappy situation.
- Maurecia complains to Mrs. Jewls that "there just aren't any good flavors anymore" (9.5).
- Mrs. Jewls works all night to make a new invention: Maurecia-flavored ice cream. She decides that this is a no-miss strategy, "because everybody likes Maurecia" (9.5). It does not occur to her that this is the grossest idea ever, but um… we think it is.
- When Maurecia tries the new flavor, she can't taste it at all, but when the rest of the class tries Maurecia-flavored ice cream, they all think it's delicious. Except for Kathy, of course.
- Mrs. Jewls realizes her mistake: Maurecia can't taste the ice cream because it's what Maurecia tastes when "she's not tasting anything at all" (9.21).
- Next Mrs. Jewls makes Joe-flavored ice cream and brings it to class. Everyone likes it except Joe, who thinks it has no taste. Strangely, Maurecia now likes Joe-flavored ice cream—and Joe himself. The same thing happens with Ron the next day.
- Mrs. Jewls brings in a flavor for each of the twenty-seven kids in class. Everyone likes all the flavors, except Kathy flavor, which "tasted a little bit like old bologna" (9.27).
- The final verdict from the class is that Maurecia ice cream is still the best. Maurecia, however, likes Todd ice cream best, which is a little bit of a problem: "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).
- Paul likes to sit in the back of the classroom farthest from Mrs. Jewls, which he thinks is the very best seat. While Mrs. Jewls teaches the class about fractions and pie, Paul is totally distracted by the long, brown pigtails in front of him, which belong to Leslie.
- All Paul wants in life is to pull one of those pigtails. They are temptation personified. But if he pulls one, he'll lose his prized anonymity: "Leslie would tell on him, and he'd become the center of attention" (10.11). Which is not the point of sitting where he sits.
- Try as he might though, he just can't ignore them. "There they were, just dangling in front of him, waiting to be pulled" (10.13). He decides not to pull them.
- Paul's arm, however, has other ideas, and decides to pull one without consulting Paul. Leslie screams and Mrs. Jewls writes Paul's name under discipline and makes him apologize.
- Even though Paul feels bad, he's conflicted—he still hasn't gotten to pull the other pigtail. He imagines the pigtail speaking to him directly: "Pull me, Paul. Pull me" (10.29).
- He gets into a long, imaginary argument with the pigtail, and the pigtail finally convinces him to pull. Leslie screams, and Mrs. Jewls asks Paul if he pulled her pigtail again. "No," Paul says. "I pulled the other one" (10.51).
- He tells Mrs. Jewls that he was just trying to be fair. "Pigtails are meant to be pulled," he explains (10.56).
- At last Paul is satisfied. He has pulled each of Leslie's pigtails, and he only has two strikes against his name. He decides he'd be happy to do this every day, because it means he won't go home on the early bus.
- Out of nowhere, Leslie screams again—and Paul gets sent home early because "Nobody would believe that he hadn't pulled Leslie's pigtail again" (10.62).
- Oops—that's the one flaw in Paul's plan that he hadn't anticipated. Bummer, Paul.
- Dana's beautiful eyes, made even more beautiful by her glasses, are her unique feature: "With two eyes she was pretty. With four eyes she was beautiful" (11.1). It stands to reason that if she was covered with eyes, she'd be even more beautiful, but this isn't the case—instead, poor Dana is "covered with mosquito bites" (11.2).
- Dana complains to Mrs. Jewls that she can't do arithmetic because she's too itchy. This prompts the rest of the class to complain about other things: too tired, too hungry, too stupid.
- Mrs. Jewls announces that arithmetic is the "best known cure for an itch" (11.16), and she asks Dana how many mosquito bites she has.
- Dana estimates that she has over a hundred bites, but her itch keeps moving from bite to bite. "The itch just never stays in the same place" (11.17), she says.
- Mrs. Jewls once again recommends arithmetic. "Mosquito bites itch, not numbers" (11.20), she reminds Dana—and then she proposes turning Dana's mosquito bites into numbers. Maybe Mrs. Jewls knows more magic than Mrs. Gorf?
- Mrs. Jewls starts quizzing the class, using mosquito bites in all the math problems. But Dana still itches. Finally Dana starts counting her own bites. When she adds all of her bites together, she gets a grand total of one hundred and twenty-four. No wonder she was going nuts.
- Once Dana counts all of her bites, they don't itch anymore.
- The rest of the students wonder if arithmetic can also fix their complaints. "I'm still stupid" (11.44), Todd remarks.
- Dana is grateful that her bites were turned into numbers instead of letters, because she just can't remember how to spell mosquito.
- Jason has "the second biggest mouth in Mrs. Jewls' class" (12.1), which is pretty impressive because "there were an awful lot of big mouths in that class" (12.1).
- Jason uses his big mouth to tattle on his classmates, and he tells Mrs. Jewls that Joy is chewing gum. (FYI: Joy has the biggest mouth in class, but she fills it with gum.)
- Jason volunteers to write Joy's name on the board, and when he gets up she sticks her giant wad of gum on his chair. This glues Jason to his seat. Mrs. Jewls orders Joy to go home on the kindergarten bus—but that doesn't help Jason, who's still stuck to the chair. "I'm going to have to stay here for the rest of my life!" (12.12) he says.
- The three Erics try to pull Jason free, but that doesn't work. Mrs. Jewls offers to go get some ice water from the lunch teacher, Miss Mush. Miss Mush's cooking skills are terrifying, but Mrs. Jewls reassures Jason that her ice water will be "at least as cold as her soups" (12.25).
- Rondi and Allison tickle Jason when Mrs. Jewls leaves the room, and he laughs so hard that his hair turns purple. When Mrs. Jewls comes back with a bucket of ice water, she dumps it all over Jason. It doesn't help unstick him, though, so now he's wet and stuck.
- Mrs. Jewls suggests cutting Jason's pants off, but Jason's really not fond of this idea. The three Erics pick Jason up and turn him upside down. He tries arguing that he's much better off permanently stuck to his seat—"Now I'll always have a place to sit down," he says. "I won't have to worry about finding a seat on the bus" (12.42).
- Joy offers to free Jason on the condition that if she succeeds, she doesn't have to go home on the kindergarten bus. Mrs. Jewls agrees.
- Joy kisses Jason on the nose, and Jason falls out of his chair.
- Todd moans that now he'll have to go home alone on the kindergarten bus.
- Rondi is the only kid in class missing her two front teeth—so of course everyone loves her two front teeth.
- Mrs. Jewls compliments her missing teeth. "Your front teeth are so cute" (13.2), she says.
- Rondi just doesn't get it. Why is everyone complimenting teeth she doesn't have? "Oh, this is silly," she says. "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). Rondi may be lacking teeth, but she is definitely not lacking sarcasm.
- Rondi's classmates begin complimenting all kinds of things Rondi isn't wearing: her hat, her boots. Then they all start laughing at the joke she didn't tell.
- Rondi's untold joke is so funny that the class can't stop laughing. Mrs. Jewls writes Rondi's name on the board and says, "the funniest jokes are the ones that remain untold" (13.30).
- In total frustration, Rondi tells a very long joke about a monkey in a banana tree. Nobody laughs. In fact, everyone ignores her.
- Fuming, Rondi runs outside when recess begins. Louis asks her why she's frowning, and tells her to smile so he can see her cute teeth. Rondi screams and bites him—and unfortunately for Louis, bites with missing teeth hurt much more than ordinary bites.
- One rainy day, the classroom on the thirtieth floor smells awful because all the kids have brought wet and smelly raincoats. There's also a new boy in class, but no one can see him underneath his raincoat.
- Mrs. Jewls introduces the new boy, Sammy, to the class. Leslie tells him, "You smell terrible" (14.6). Leslie may be lacking tact, but she insists Sammy smells awful—so Mrs. Jewls writes her name on the board.
- Sammy calls Leslie ugly, insults Allison, and calls Mrs. Jewls an "old windbag" (14.14). He also refuses to take off his coat.
- Mrs. Jewls takes Sammy's coat off for him, but underneath is another coat, "even dirtier and smellier than the first one" (14.16), so the class still can't see who's under the coat.
- Mrs. Jewls keeps taking off raincoats. The smell is overwhelming, so she opens a window. Sammy gets angrier and angrier—and creepier—by the minute. "You're all just a bunch of pigs," he screeches. "Dirty, rotten pigs!" (14.21).
- Sammy gets smaller as his raincoats are removed. Mrs. Jewls writes his name on the blackboard. He begins to laugh, and "His horrible laugh was even worse than his horrible voice" (14. 29).
- This kid's kind of creepy, right?
- Mrs. Jewls keeps removing coats, throwing them out the window, and adding marks to the blackboard around Sammy's name as the smell gets worse. Sammy threatens to bite her head off.
- When Mrs. Jewls removes the final coat, all that's left is a dead rat. Seriously.
- Thankfully Mrs. Jewls has a no-dead-rats policy in her classroom though, so she picks up the rat and throws it away. The kids are grateful that Sammy doesn't get to stay in class.
- Now everyone, scream at once: "Dead rats were always trying to sneak into Mrs. Jewls' class. This was the third one she'd caught since September" (14.42). Best punch line ever? Or just the freakiest?
- Deedee's a big fan of recess. She's such a fan, in fact, that she jumps down the stairs ten at a time to get there and ignores the posted signs about not cutting across the grass.
- (Remember, Wayside isn't like most other schools—so of course all the other kids prefer spelling to recess.)
- Even though Deedee hurries, she never makes it to recess in time to get a green ball. The green balls are the best playground balls; the red ones are second best.
- Deedee asks Louis for a green ball, then a red one, but all Louis has left is the yellow ball. "It didn't bounce, and it never went the way it was kicked" (15.11).
- Deedee complains to Louis about her bad luck in playground balls, and Louis explains that she's always the last one to get there. "But that's because I have to come all the way from the thirtieth story," she says. "How do you expect me to compete with the kids from the first or second?" (15.18). Fair question we think.
- Deedee abandons the useless yellow ball and plays hopscotch with Jennie and Leslie, which she thinks is "disgusting" (15.22).
- The next day, Deedee asks if she can go to recess early, but Mrs. Jewls makes her spell Mississippi first. Spelling isn't Deedee's best subject, and so she's late to recess instead. She's left with the yellow ball again, so again she plays hopscotch, which is no better than jump rope.
- We're asked to guess how Deedee solves this problem, knowing what we know about Wayside School. Which means the solution is probably pretty wacky.
- Deedee's plan: The next day, she brings "a cream cheese and jelly sandwich, some nuts, and shredded cheese" (15.33) in her lunchbox. Just before recess, she smears the contents of her lunch all over her face. Did you guess that's what she was going to do? We'll admit—this idea was not first on our list (but then again, first on our list was eat all the food).
- Todd, who's in on the plan, tells Mrs. Jewls that there's a dead rat in the classroom. And just like that, Sammy's story comes back to haunt us again.
- Mrs. Jewls tells the kids to put the dead rat outside immediately, and they do. Deedee finds herself on the playground before anyone else. She asks Louis for a green ball, but he doesn't answer at first. After she says please, Louis answers, "I don't know how you did it, Deedee, but you're first today" (15.42).
- Mrs. Jewls finds out that she's been tricked, so of course she sends Todd home early.
- Deedee plays with her green ball and asks Louis if he likes her. She calls him her best friend. "I always wanted to be best friends with a dead rat" (15.56), Louis says.
- So we've had kids with beautiful eyes, cute teeth, and curly hair. Now we meet D.J., who has a huge, beaming smile. Daemon, whose smile is almost as big, is D.J.'s best friend.
- D.J.'s smile is contagious, and soon the entire class is smiling, though they don't know why D.J. is. Even when Jason is sad about coming to class late, D.J.'s smile fixes everything: "[…] when he saw the piano on D.J.'s face, he fell, laughing, onto the floor" (16.8). Even terrible Kathy laughs.
- The whole classroom—inanimate objects included—laughs.
- Mrs. Jewls asks D.J. why he's so happy, but he can't answer because his mouth is too stretched out to say anything.
- The class offers to guess why he's happy, but no one gets the answer. D.J. keeps right on smiling.
- At recess, Louis calls D.J. over and asks him why he's so happy. D.J. gives a fantastic, surprisingly Zen answer: "You need a reason to be sad. You don't need a reason to be happy" (16.24).
- Next up: John, who's very smart but can only read words written upside down. (Sounds kind of like Joe, who couldn't count right—and in fact, Joe is John's best friend.) John just turns his book upside down rather than try to learn to read correctly.
- Mrs. Jewls tells John that he can't spend the rest of his life turning his books upside down. John asks her why not, and she reminds him that he can't turn the blackboard upside down if she writes on it. Her solution: "You are going to have to learn to stand on your head" (17.9). Which is certainly one way of fixing things…
- John can't stand on his head. Joe can stand on John's head, however, which is what they do every time John falls over.
- Mrs. Jewls gets John a pillow, and the class tries to help by propping him upside down. It works.
- Hey, Shmoopsters: the next paragraph in the book is actually printed upside down, so we get to see the world the way John does. Pretty great, right?
- And then John falls over and hits the ground hard. When he gets up, he can read correctly. "When I fell, I must have flipped my brain or something" (17.26), he says.
- Mrs. Jewls offers John a Tootsie Roll pop to congratulate him. Instead of looking on top of the desk for one, John looks underneath it. Uh-oh…
- At last we get to hear about Leslie, whose pigtails tempted Paul back in Chapter 10. Leslie's problem seems simple: She has ten toes, but she doesn't know what to do with them.
- Sharie suggests sucking them, while Dana suggests scratching her legs, but Leslie isn't itchy.
- When Leslie asks Louis, he offers to solve the problem by taking her toes away—he asks her to cut them off and give them to him. "You won't have to worry about them ever again" (18.17), he says.
- When Leslie refuses, Louis elaborates: He wants to give them to Miss Mush, the lunch teacher, so she can make hot dogs out of them. Um… gross.
- Finally Louis offers Leslie five cents apiece for her toes. She goes back to class and asks Mrs. Jewls if there's any reason why she shouldn't sell them, then she goes back down to Louis to sell her toes.
- When she tells Louis, he asks her to take her shoes off so he can see her toes before he buys them. He offers her three cents instead of five for the smaller ones. They bargain, but can't agree. Leslie walks away without selling them, because she wants a full fifty cents for the set of ten.
- As she leaves, Louis offers her a dollar apiece for her pigtails. But apparently hair is far more valuable to Leslie than toes because she says, "Cut my hair! Are you crazy!?" (18.45).
- We can't really sum up this chapter, because there is no summary. Why? There is no chapter, only a few sentences. Here they are: "There is no Miss Zarves. There is no nineteenth story. Sorry."
- Did you really expect anything else in chapter nineteen?
- We've heard a lot about Kathy so far, and all of it boils down to one thing: She doesn't like anyone. So it's no surprise that Kathy's chapter starts this way: "Kathy doesn't like you. She doesn't know you, but she still doesn't like you" (20.1).
- The only person Kathy ever liked in Mrs. Jewls' class was Sammy, the dead rat. Kathy sounds like a lovely kid, doesn't she?
- Turns out Kathy has a reason for her dislike of each person in the class. Once she had a cat named Skunks, who she actually liked. Mrs. Jewls told Kathy that Skunks would never run away, but Kathy kept Skunks locked in her closet just in case—and when she opened the closet one day, Skunks took off. That's how Mrs. Jewls earned her spot on Kathy's dislike list.
- Of course, Kathy seems a little bit… troubled, shall we say? "The next time I get a cat, I'll kill him. Then he'll never run away" (20.12), she decides.
- Kathy has good reasons for disliking other people too, since as far as she's concerned, each one of them was wrong about something. Once. But once is enough for Kathy.
- So we know that Kathy doesn't like you, right? Here's why: "She knows that if you ever met her, you wouldn't like her. You don't like Kathy, do you?" (20.29). Well do you?
- Ultimately there's something strangely deep about this kid who doesn't like anyone, as the narrator comments, "It's funny how a person can be right all the time and still be wrong" (20.31).
- Ron has curly hair, little feet, and wants to play kickball. Terrence, Deedee, and Jason tell him he can't.
- So Ron goes to Louis for help. Louis tells the other kids they can't have the ball unless they share, and offers to play on Ron's team, prompting a wave of smack talk from the other three kids.
- They start the game. Unfortunately Ron is a terrible kickball player, though, and can only kick the ball a few feet. But Louis kicks a home run every time. Even with Louis' help, Ron and Louis lose the game twenty-six to two. But all is not lost because "Ron had a wonderful time" (21.39).
- Ron wants to play again the next day, and Louis agrees; they lose even more spectacularly than in the first game.
- When recess is over, Louis cuts to the chase: "Why do you always want to play kickball?" he asks Ron. "You can't kick. You can't field. You can't even run to first base" (21.48).
- Ron fires back: "Don't go blaming it all on me. You're half the team too, you know" (21.49).
- And then he punches Louis in the stomach—and he happens to be perfectly good at punching.
The Three Erics
- There are three Erics in Mrs. Jewls' class: Eric Fry, Eric Bacon, and Eric Ovens. Unfortunately no one realizes they're not all versions of the same person.
- For example, everyone thinks all the Erics are fat. "There was a joke around Wayside School that if all the Erics were ever at the same end of the room at the same time, the whole school would tip over" (22.1). But Eric Bacon is the skinniest kid in class, though this doesn't stop his classmates from giving him the nickname "Fatso."
- Eric Fry is actually fat, but he's also the best athlete in the class. But no one notices, because the other two Erics aren't good at sports, so Eric Fry is always picked last for teams and given the nickname "Butterfingers."
- Eric Ovens is the nicest person in the class, but since the other two Erics are mean (due to being given totally inaccurate nicknames), everyone assumes Eric Ovens is also a jerk. The class, therefore, calls him "Crabapple."
- All three Erics think it's an improvement to have nicknames, even though they're all totally wrong. At least this way they know when someone is talking to them.
- Allison is a pretty little girl whose best friend is Rondi. The boys tease her for being pretty, so Allison tells everyone in class that she knocked out Rondi's missing front teeth, and "The boys didn't bother her after that" (23.2).
- Allison's not only pretty, but she's also generous. She always reasons that if someone has been generous to her, she should give them something in return. Miss Mush asks for Allison's tangerine from her lunch, and because Miss Mush always gives the children food at school, Allison gives her the tangerine. The librarian asks to borrow Allison's book, and because the librarian lends books to kids at school, Allison "was glad to be able to return the favor" (23.12).
- Out on the playground, Allison starts playing with a tennis ball she brought from home. Louis asks for it, and since Louis always gives balls to children, Allison hands it over.
- Since Allison has given away all of her lunchtime entertainment, she goes back up to class.
- Mrs. Jewls asks if Allison will help her with a math problem and—of course—Allison says yes.
- The math problem turns out to be a spelling problem, but Allison helps anyway.
- Before the rest of the kids come back to class, Mrs. Jewls tells Allison that Allison has learned an important secret: "You learned that children are really smarter than their teachers" (23.32), Mrs. Jewls says.
- Allison is not impressed. "Oh, that's no secret," she says. "Everybody knows that" (23.33).
- Dameon has hazel eyes with black pupils, and—not-so-coincidentally—he's a pupil too. Mrs. Jewls asks him to go downstairs and ask Louis if he'd like to watch a movie with the class.
- Dameon runs down thirty flights and asks Louis, who wants to know what movie it is, so Dameon runs back upstairs.
- Dameon runs up and down the stairs, back and forth, relaying messages between Louis and Mrs. Jewls. At long last Dameon communicates that the class is watching a movie about turtles, and no, Louis doesn't want to watch. (Clearly this book was written before the era of the cell phone.)
- Mrs. Jewls asks the class to write about turtles, but Dameon has not only missed the movie, he also can't find his pencil. When he describes it to the class, it turns out to look exactly like every other pencil in the classroom.
- At that moment, Louis walks in and hands Dameon his pencil. "You dropped this when you were telling me about the movie" (24.52), Louis says.
- To avoid further mix-ups, Mrs. Jewls asks the class to write their names on their pencils. Dameon spends the rest of the day trying to write his name on his pencil, because unfortunately, "Dameon's pencil couldn't write on itself" (24.54)—just like the pupils in his eyes, which can see everything except themselves.
- Jenny arrives late to school one day, but no one is in the classroom. Are they on a field trip? She has no idea. With no one there, she tries to figure out what to do.
- She sits down at her desk and starts to work on her spelling. No one shows up, though, and she starts to get seriously worried.
- Before Jenny can make much headway on her spelling, a man with a black mustache and a black attaché case barges into the room and sits down at the desk next to her. He starts to question her: Why is she in school? Where are all her classmates? Jenny gets more and more agitated. "I was half an hour late today, and when I got here everybody was gone! Really! Did something happen to them?" (25.33) she asks.
- The man wonders why she worked on spelling if everyone was missing. He keeps asking questions without offering answers, and Jenny starts to cry.
- Two more men come into the room and start speaking to the first man, reviewing what Jenny told them. Finally the men start to leave.
- As they leave, one of them calls out to Jenny: "Next time, don't come to school on a Saturday" (25.58). Well, that would explain things… or some of things, anyway.
- Terrence, a "good athlete but a bad sport" (25.1), can't seem to behave at recess. First he asks to join Rondi and Allison's game. They won't let him play, which at first seems a little bit nasty, but when they give in, it's easy to see why they don't want him—he just kicks their ball over the fence. Game over. "Shut up, Dixie cup" (25.12), Terrence taunts when Allison tells him to go get the ball. Rondi tells Louis.
- So Terrence asks D.J. and Dameon if he can join their basketball game. Same thing: they say no, but as soon as they relent, Terrence kicks their ball over the fence. "Take a train, peanut brain" (25.24), he says. D.J. tells Louis.
- Terrence approaches Stephen, Calvin, Joe, John, and Leslie and the whole disaster happens again. They all refuse to let him play: "You'll kick the ball over the fence" (25.28), Calvin says. But Stephen relents, and when Terrence is finally allowed to play "spud," what does he do? You guessed it—another ball goes flying over the fence.
- There are no balls left. All the kids who tried to play with Terrence approach Terrence again, this time with Louis.
- Terrence asks Louis if he has a green ball. Uh, no, Terrence. "All of my balls have mysteriously disappeared" (25.43), Louis explains. Terrence laments that there's nothing left to kick, but Louis answers by saying, "Oh, I don't know about that" (25.45).
- Louis asks all the assembled kids if they think there's anything left to kick. They all agree that there's definitely something left, and Terrence starts demanding whatever that something is. "Give it to me. Give it to me" (25.62), he repeats.
- Finally Stephen says, "Let him have it." Terrence begs: "You heard him, Louis. Let me have it" (25.70).
- You've been had, Terrence. Louis picks Terrence up and kicks him over the fence.
- Joy's problem: She forgot her lunch at home. Even worse, she doesn't have a meal ticket for one of Miss Mush's atrocious meals. But it turns out her problem is easily solved. Dameon has his lunch, and it's a really delicious one—so when he leaves his desk to get a glass of milk from the lunch room, Joy grabs his entire meal.
- First she eats his turkey sandwich and discards the empty wrapper on Jason's desk. Next she chows down on a piece of chocolate cake—and leaves that wrapper on Allison's desk. And finally she eats Jason's apple, leaving the core on Deedee's desk. When she's finished, she puts Dameon's empty lunch sack on Calvin's desk.
- When Dameon comes back from the lunch room, he discovers his missing lunch and tells Mrs. Jewls. Joy immediately jumps in. "Calvin took it" (27.13), she says, pointing out the empty lunch sack on Calvin's desk—so Mrs. Jewls reprimands Calvin and writes his name under discipline.
- One by one, Joy incriminates her classmates for the missing lunch items. Even when Mrs. Jewls asks how she knew Dameon had a turkey sandwich, Joy dodges the question. "I'm just smart" (27.17), she says.
- Mrs. Jewls asks Dameon to thank Joy for solving the mystery of his missing lunch. He does. And just then, Louis shows up with Joy's lunch, delivered from home. Joy immediately offers it to Dameon, because she's not hungry and her lunch is actually pretty awful.
- Mrs. Jewls is thrilled with Joy and tells her to help herself to a Tootsie pop for solving the mystery and being so generous with her lunch. Joy helps herself to not one, but two. Look out, Joy—you're on the road to a life of crime.
- All the names are eventually erased from the board, and everyone forgets about the missing lunch. But Joy doesn't forget. For the rest of the year, "every turkey sandwich, piece of chocolate cake, apple, and Tootsie pop tasted like Miss Mush's porridge" (27.37). Joy, that must be what guilt tastes like.
- Nancy doesn't like his name. He thinks it's a girl's name. None of the other kids think Nancy's name is strange, but Nancy is really self-conscious about it—so he's quiet and shy and never says anything. His only friend is a girl who goes to class on the twenty-third story of Wayside School.
- Nancy and his friend are happy not knowing each other's names. They call each other "'Hey, You' or just plain 'You'" (28.4).
- One day, Nancy's friend is late to class and he overhears her teacher call his friend "Mac." Mac is mortified that Nancy has found out, but Nancy calls after her and tells her his name: "I was ashamed to tell you my name" (28.13), she says.
- They bond over their mutual hatred of their own names—Nancy was named for a favorite aunt, and Mac a beloved dog—and decide to trade names. Apparently the best way to do this is to spin around "one hundred times in opposite directions" (28.24) until they fall over.
- When Nancy—now Mac—goes back to class, he doesn't feel shy anymore. He introduces himself as Mac, and everyone in the class starts to think that this trading names idea sounds pretty cool. They all decide to trade names with each other, spin around, and fall over, but… "when they stood up again, no one knew who anybody was" (28.43). Oops.
- They argue over whose names are whose for over an hour, until someone finally figures out who Rondi is because she's missing two teeth. From there they start to figure out the other students, and also Mrs. Jewls, who's the oldest.
- To avoid further confusion, everyone decides to keep his own name.
- Mac and Nancy are the only ones who keep their new names, but since old habits die hard, whenever they get together they still call each other "Hey, You" or just plain "you."
- Stephen has a really unusual sense of fashion, and comes to school one day with green hair, purple ears, a blue face, a green leotard, and pink dancing shoes. He doesn't always dress like this, though—he's dressed as a goblin for Mrs. Jewls' Halloween party.
- Jason and Jenny laugh at him. None of the other kids are dressed up because they think the party is another day. Stephen insists they're wrong.
- Mrs. Jewls announces that it's time for the party, and hands out Halloween cookies. She laughs at Stephen's costume and forgets to give him a cookie; then the party is over. Stephen feels ridiculous: "The party lasted less than a minute. And he had to spend the rest of the day wearing his stupid goblin suit" (29.13).
- Mrs. Jewls tries to teach arithmetic but can't get the right answer to 2+2—no matter what she does, she can't seem to write 4 on the board.
- Suddenly her chalk turns into a live worm and she drops it. The lights go out, and the blackboard lights up "like a movie screen" (29.22). A woman appears on the screen and steps out into the classroom.
- It's the ghost of Mrs. Gorf, the nasty teacher from way back in Chapter 1. Egads.
- Mrs. Gorf threatens revenge on the class. (Of course she does.) The kids explain to Mrs. Jewls that Mrs. Gorf turned everyone into apples and was then eaten by Louis.
- Mrs. Jewls orders her to leave, but Mrs. Gorf says that because it's Halloween and she's a ghost, she can go wherever she likes. Mrs. Jewls argues with Mrs. Gorf over what date Halloween might be this year, but Mrs. Gorf agrees with Stephen—Halloween is today.
- Stephen is thrilled to have confirmation, even from the ghost of Mrs. Gorf, so he leaps out of his seat and hugs Mrs. Gorf in gratitude. Who knew you could hug a ghost?
- Mrs. Gorf disappears in shock and the lights go on again. Mrs. Jewls writes the correct answer to 2+2 on the blackboard, saying, "That's good. When two plus two doesn't equal four, anything can happen" (29.42). How true, Mrs. Jewls.
- Stephen is hailed as a hero, but changes out of his costume anyway. His hair, however, is still green… because it's always green.
- We've known Louis for quite a while now, but at last he gets his own chapter. Louis is the yard teacher at Wayside School, and it's his job to make sure no one has too much fun at lunch and recess. (We guess that's why there are a limited number of green balls?)
- But the most important thing about Louis is that he's the person who wrote this book. And yes, the real author's name is Louis too.
- Because everything is backwards at Wayside School, Louis keeps all the kids indoors for a blizzard on June tenth, and comes up to the classroom on the thirtieth floor to tell all the children a story during their lunchtime.
- Louis sits down while all of our friends on the thirtieth floor gather around for his story. Now that we know the entire cast of characters, everyone in the class gets a chance to pipe up during this final chapter.
- Louis tells a story that starts very much the same way this book also starts: it's about a school. But this school has all of its classrooms on a single story. The kids on the thirtieth floor are baffled.
- "Now, you might think the children there are strange and silly. That is probably true," Louis says, echoing this book's introduction. "However, when I told them stories about you, they thought that you were strange and silly" (30.24).
- Louis goes on to describe all the things that happen at Wayside that never happen at the other school—no one gets turned into apples, and dead rats don't try to get into class. The kids are horrified.
- Mrs. Jewls tells Louis that she tries to focus on the truth, saying, "[…] We really don't go in for fairy tales here" (30.46).
- The class boos as Louis leaves to tell his "fairy tale" to the kids on the story below—and that's the end of the thirtieth story.