Wayside school is just a little different. The builder built the school sideways, so it's 30 classrooms stacked on top of each other. Mrs. Jewls's class is on the 30th floor. That makes for a long hike for her students. The students at Wayside are a little different as well. One boy has a literal compulsion to pull a girl's braids. One student sleeps all the time. Everyone calls a new kid by the wrong name and he never corrects anyone. One new kid shows up wearing a raincoat and there's a huge surprise when he takes it off. The teachers at Wayside are a little different too. The first teacher is horrible and when she disappears, the students get a teacher who is just as wacky as they are. Yes, life's a little different at Wayside, but that's the way they like it.
I can remember my 4th grade teacher reading the first book to my class. We thought this was the funniest thing ever! I had high expectations going into it, and I wasn't really let down. It wasn't as funny to me now as it was to my 9-year-old self, but I can definitely see why I loved it back then. Don't get me wrong--it was still hilarious, but I found myself giggling or smiling instead of laughing out loud.
I wasn't too sure about Louis Sachar as the narrator at first. He's not terribly exciting but he grew on me. He has an earnest voice that perfectly set up the crazy things these kids did in all seriousness.
I felt the first book was the best but the other two were worth checking out as well. The end of the second one got waaaay weird and ended in a not-very-happy place. I was surprised. But readers will have to pick up the third book to see how things work out for the Wayside Schoolers, so I guess it was effective marketing.
I think the books work so well because, well, kids are weird. For real. They start learning pretty early on what is and isn't acceptable, so they don't do half the weird things they want to do. The Wayside Schoolers have no inhibitions. They just go for it and it's fun to live vicariously through them.
The books, especially the first, don't really have one big plot. Each chapter is more like a short story about a kid in the class. I happen to like short stories so this worked for me. I think kids will enjoy dipping in and out of it as well. Others might consider it choppy.
I don't really know what most adults will think of it unless they remember it fondly from their elementary school days. Kids with a kid's sense of humor should love it. A great read for both girls and boys.
Read or listen to an excerpt.
Find author Louis Sachar on his website.
Read another review at Puss Reboots.
If you liked The Wayside School Collection, you might also like the Adventures of Captain Underpants by Dav Pilkey, Artemis Fowl by Eoin Colfer, and Elliot and the Goblin War by Jennifer A. Nielsen.
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