Wayside School (book series)

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This article is about the book series. For the TV series based on the books, see Wayside (TV series).

Wayside School is a series of three chapter books written by Louis Sachar, consisting of: Sideways Stories from Wayside School, Wayside School is Falling Down, and Wayside School Gets A Little Stranger. The books tell the stories of a school built 30 floors high, with one classroom per floor, but no 19th floor. Each book contains 30 chapters.

In 1989, Sachar released two spinoff books of mathematics and puzzles interspread with stories: Sideways Arithmetic from Wayside School and More Sideways Arithmetic from Wayside School. In 2005, a television special loosely based on the books titled Wayside: The Movie aired, and was followed-up in 2007 by a Wayside animated series.


While a student at University of California, Berkeley, author Louis Sachar began working at an elementary school to earn college credit.[1] Sachar later recalled,

Sachar graduated from UC Berkeley in 1976 with a degree in Economics, and began working on Sideways Stories From Wayside School, a children's book set at an elementary school with supernatural elements. Although the book's students were named after children from Hillside and there is a presumably autobiographical character named "Louis the Yard Teacher,"[1] Sachar has said that he draws very little from personal experience, explaining that "....my personal experiences are kind of boring. I have to make up what I put in my books."[2]


The Wayside School books take place on the thirtieth story of Wayside School, which is taught by Mrs. Jewls; a nice teacher with occasionally impractical teaching methods. She is the replacement for the old teacher, Mrs. Gorf; who was an evil teacher who could wiggle her ears and stick out her tongue to turn the students into apples. The third book introduces her son, Mr. Gorf; who could steal voices through a third nostril, alongside Mrs. Drazil; Louis's old teacher who remembers students that forgot homework assignments from decades ago and Ms. Wendy Nogard; who could read thoughts with a third ear on the top of her head.

The thirtieth story has had thirty students taught throughout the course of the books, such as Todd; a student who Mrs. Jewls sends home on the kindergarten bus after slight misdemeanors, Maurecia; a sweet and sensitive girl who loves ice cream, Dana; a girl with glasses who has a tendency to be over-emotional, and Myron; a trustworthy and loyal student who was class president for one day. Other students include John; who could only read upside-down until his brain got flipped, Joe; a boy with several curly hairs who can't count right, Stephen; a boy who frequently shows up to class in silly outfits, Jenny; a girl who is often late to school and has to get there on a motorcycle, Bebe; a girl who can produce art very quickly, but is shown to be a bit troublesome in class, Rondi; a girl who is often recognized for the front teeth she doesn't have until she gets them in the second book, and Leslie; a girl with long pigtails that are often pulled by Paul; an inattentive boy who loves pulling pigtails. There are also the Three Erics, consisting of Eric Fry; the most athletic Eric who is often called "Butterfingers" since the other Erics are inathletic, Eric Bacon; the skinniest Eric who is often called "Fatso" since the other Erics are fat, and Eric Ovens; the nicest Eric who is usually called "Crabapple" since the other Erics are typically pretty negative. Sharie is a girl who wears a large coat and frequently falls asleep in class, but is respected since Mrs. Jewls believes she learns best that way, Deedee is a girl who likes sports but is always stuck with the lame yellow ball, which doesn't bounce and always goes the opposite way of where you kick it. Also in the books are Allison; a girl who typically tries to assert dominance, even over her friends, D.J.; a boy who usually smiles, even without reason, Dameon; a boy with a crush on Mrs. Jewls who often is sent running up and down the thirty flights of stairs at Wayside, Joy; a tomboyish kleptomaniac who usually targets Todd, Jason; a boy with a big mouth who always gets in bad situations, Kathy; a girl who is mean to all the other students, Terrence; a school bully who rarely shares and usually kicks the balls over the fence, Mac; a boy who once was named Nancy and now tells long stories in class, Ron; a boy with weak feet who loves to play kickball, and Calvin; a slow-paced student who is Bebe's art assistant.

Three new students were introduced throughout the course of the series, the first being Sammy, who first appeared in Sideways Stories from Wayside School, who was revealed to be a dead rat bundled in raincoats by the end of the chapter. The second was Sue, who only appeared in the spin-off books, a normal girl who transferred to Wayside, only to be confused by the school's bizarre teaching methods. The third and final was Benjamin Nushmutt, introduced in Wayside School is Falling Down, being a boy who everyone believed was named Mark Miller up until the twenty-ninth chapter of the book.

Other members of the school staff include Louis; a character based on Louis Sachar himself, being the school's yard teacher with a mustache of many colors who is friends with all the kids, Miss Mush; the school's cafeteria lady whose meals are so horrible, students rarely dare to eat them, as well as her assistant, Mr. Pepperadder, who only appears in the math spin-offs, being a person who is often pranked by Miss Mush because he is shorter than her. Mr. Kidswatter is the school principal, who hates all the kids and often over-reacts when things don't go his way. Dr. Pickell is the school counselor, who uses hypnosis on the students to cure their ailments, but also add strange side-effects. Miss Zarves is the teacher of the nineteenth story, which doesn't exist, and four kids named Ray, Virginia, Nick, and Mark. She and her students supposedly do not exist either. There is also Miss Worm, the teacher of the twenty-ninth story who is annoyed by Mrs. Jewls's teaching methods. A few one-off characters include Mrs. Waloosh; the eccentric dance teacher at the school, Mrs. Franklin; a substitute from the second book that believed all the students were named Benjamin, Mrs. Day; the school secretary, and David; Mr. Kidswatter's chaffeur.

A few more characters include Hobo Bob; a hobo who hates socks brought in by Sharie for show-and-tell, Xavier Dalton; a man who made Ms. Nogard bitter and hateful after being disgusted by her third ear, Mr. Finch; a man who saved up his life savings to start an ice cream company, and the numerous cows that came to the school leading to it being shut down for 243 days, one which ended up on the nineteenth story.

Story conventions[edit]

  • In Sideways Arithmetic From Wayside School, it is revealed the characters add, subtract, and multiply words. The children at Wayside School have no concept of adding numbers until Mrs. Jewls teaches the kids 4+7=11, in numbers, not words.
  • If a student does something wrong once, Mrs. Jewls will write that student's name under the word DISCIPLINE. If a student does something wrong a second time, Mrs. Jewls will put a check next to that student's name. If a student does something wrong a third time, Mrs. Jewls will circle his/her name and send him/her home at noon on the kindergarten bus. Despite only needing three strikes, Mrs. Jewls resorts to also adding a triangle when Sammy was disruptive. Despite being a good student, Todd is sent home every day on the kindergarten bus as a result of him always unfairly getting in trouble each day. Paul is also sent home on the kindergarten bus, but only once, after pulling Leslie's pigtails during class. Another time, when it looks like Joy was going to be sent home early, Todd thinks he is going to have company, but Joy ends up making up for her crime by kissing Jason on the nose so that he would come unstuck from the gum she put on his seat. Mrs. Jewls even sends herself home early for temporarily turning evil.
  • Goozack was another word for door in the book Wayside School Gets a Little Stranger. After the principal ran into his office door and spilled coffee over his clothes, he said that the word "door" was a bad word. Anyone who said "door" would get in trouble. So he introduced the word "goozack" to replace the word door. Todd was the first student to break the new rule, only because he was late for school at the time and didn't hear the announcement. Later, when Mrs. Drazil said "door" and the students pointed out that she was to call it "goozack," she immediately said "Mr. Kidswatter is a 'goozack'" in retaliation.
  • In all three books in the Wayside School series, Chapter 19 differs strongly from other chapters. In the first book, that chapter is non-existent, in the second book, the 19th chapter takes up 3 chapters (all numbered 19) and based on Miss Zarves' classroom, a non-existent location (the last of these is followed by a chapter numbered 20, 21, and 22, all at once.) In the third book, Chapter 19 is also based on the non-existent location.
  • In all three books, Chapter 17 has the theme of things being done backwards. In the first book, John reads upside-down. The second book includes a chapter in which the paragraphs are read in reverse order, and the third book has a title which is paradoxical to its plot until the final sentences.
  • In the first book, Chapter 22 is about The Three Erics. In the second book, the 22nd chapter (Chapter, 20, 21, and 22) is also about the three Erics. And in the television series, the second half of Episode 22 is called The Three Erics.
  • The last sentence of each book is "everybody _ooed." In the first book it says "everybody booed." (due to Louis telling them a bad story about a regular school) The second book ends in "everybody mooed," after Louis asks the cows in the building to leave. The third book ends in "everybody ooohed," after Louis kisses Miss Nogard and it doesn't say if they got married.

Other media[edit]

In 2005, Nelvana produced an hour-long television special loosely based on the books called Wayside: The Movie. The special was later spun off into a series titled Wayside, which aired on Nickelodeon and Teletoon from 2007 to 2008.


Sachar, Louis. Sideways Stories from Wayside School. New York: Avon Books, Inc., 1978.

  1. ^ a b c "Author Bio", Louis Sachar's Official Web Site, 2005. Retrieved 2007-07-14.
  2. ^ "Louis Sachar Interview Transcript", Scholastic.com, 2006-02-23. Retrieved 2007-07-18.