BOOK REVIEWS

Sideways Stories from Wayside School Reviews

UPDATE TIME: 2018-04-06 
Review Score: 4 out of 5 star From 310 user ratings
ISBN:0380731487
LANGUAGE:English

"The only thing I remembered about this book from the long, long ago when I read it was that I really liked it. I just bought it and the two sequels for my niece, and had to check it out again before passing it on to her. I'm glad I read it again as it gave me a nice jaunt down memory lane. I never read the sequels, and am not going to read them now due to having so much other stuff to read, but I'm sure she'll like them.

Right off the bat in chapter one we have an evil bitch of a teacher named Mrs. Gorf who actually reminds me of my third grade teacher Mrs. Ball. She has a forked tongue, can wiggle her ears, cast spells, and do all kinds of evil deeds (Mrs. Gorf, not Mrs. Ball, though the latter could certainly have pulled all that off if she'd tried; she was definitely mean enough to pull from the dark side of the force if she had the ability to use it at all). No fan of suspense or plot build-up, Sachar immediately sees her cannibalized by the recess teacher, and then it's on to chapter two. What a hook, eh? We hear from her ghost toward the end of the book for a page or two, and then she's remurdered by a hug from a student. Alas for Mrs. Gorf.

One thing I really liked about this book was that all the chapters are titled with the name of the person it's about. E.g. chapter one is "Mrs. Gorf." Wayside school was built without a 19th story. There are 30 floors, but the 19th simply doesn't exist. The teacher on that floor, Miss. Zarves, also doesn't exist, though a student is instructed to take a note to her. (He manages it quite logically, actually). That's all spelled out early on in the book, and then we get to chapter 19 entitled "Miss Zarves," and it simply states "There is no Miss Zarves. There is no 19th story. Sorry." Ingenious.

If you like short, silly kid stories, then this is quite good. If you read it when you were a kid, then you know whether or not you like it, of course. I believe any elementary age child who enjoys reading would enjoy this book. The stories are short (three to five pages each) and easy to read. There's also a fair amount of fun wordplay that I always appreciate, as mentioned in the paragraph above, but the stories also have a plot and aren't solely linguistic acrobatics.
" said.

"My kids and I just finished reading this book aloud one story a night. The humorous stories and ridiculous situations entertained all three kids (aged 4 through 8) and I found myself laughing aloud with them ad the adventures of the kids on the 30th story.

Characters
Each story focuses primarily on a different character so trying to lump all of the characters together into a single review category is difficult. The two character persistent throughout the book, Mrs. Jewls and Louis, are interesting in that they are the only adults (once Mrs. Gorf is gone) and yet their behaviors are just as outrageous as those of the children.

Where the characters really shine is in their simple, child-like logic not tainted by the "reality" of adult experience and education. Each of the characters find themselves in unique situations and react with matter-of-fact that are very true depictions of the mindset of a child.

The simplicity and innocence of the characters' thinking serves as a great commentary not only on the humorous and sometimes foolish predicaments that they find themselves in, but also on the fact that sometimes those innocent and simple ideals are just as effective (or even more effective) than the "logical" views of the adult world.

Plot/Pacing/Setting/Etc
Each story had its own plot that was generally wrapped up within the story itself. Sometimes elements of one story will show up later in another story.

The pacing is quick and engaging. Never did my kids get bored during the reading. If anything, the pacing may have been too quick at times since the kids were often bummed that a story was over too quickly.

The setting of Wayside school was a quirky and unique exploration of a school. I loved the idea that the construction crew made a mistake and built the rooms one on top of another instead of side by side as in a "normal" school.

I especially loved the last chapter where Louis tells the kids about other schools...and how strange they (we) are.

Overall
This is a great collection of stories...essentially a collection of children's fables (although unlike a "true" fable, the morals are often left unsaid or less pronounced). The humor and wit is entertaining both for kids and adults and makes for an entertaining read.

By breaking the book out into a series of many very short stories, this book becomes something that can be picked up for a quick 5-10 minutes of reading or can be lounged over for an hour or so. The language is simple enough that an early reader (1st-2nd grade) should be able to read it on his/her own. It's definitely a lot of fun to read aloud with kids and I'm glad I went that route with my kids.

I look forward to finding more stories from Wayside school.

****
4 stars
" said.

"Here's to another series I LOVED as a kid.

I checked the audiobook out of the library a couple of years ago for Eleanor, but she was NOT interested. A couple months ago, I tried again and she gave it a shot. She loved it.

Shortly after, I checked this out to read to all three girls. Man, I can't believe how good they still are. My goodreads shelf tells me that the last time I read this was back in 2005. I could read this one every year.

As I've mentioned before, these kid reviews seriously inflate my goodreads average review score. But, this one I'll agree with them on... unless they don't give it five stars. ...If that's the case, I'll have to have an old-fashioned heart-to-heart with them.

Alright: Lets start out. How many stars should I give it?

El: 5!

Poppy: Fwenty!

El: Gwen? How many stars do you want to give it?

Gwen: A hundred! No! Infinity!

El: You mean five?

Gwen: Infinity!

El: I guess you really like it if you want to give it that many stars.

Poppy: Are you going to give it fwenty?

Dad: (Looks like we won't have to have the heart-to-heart after all.) We're going to do something different today. Instead of all talking at once, or listening to what everybody else says, I want you to whisper your first answer to me, okay?

All: Ok.

Dad: We're going to go with Gwen first, that way she can't read everybody else's answer when you're done. ...Actually, Gwen, lets go out to the hall real quick.

Dad: (Out in the hall, whispering): What was your favorite part, Gwen?

G: My favorite part was when the (view spoiler)" said.

" I'm rereading this for the first time since elementary school, and I gotta say, I'm really blown away by the sheer absurdity of it. It reminds me of James Marshall's George and Martha stories: absurd, but lovely in that they never apologize for being absurd or wink at you from beneath the absurdity. It's just absurd all the way down, sincerely and deeply absurd. I imagine after you graduate from George and Martha, you move on to Wayside, and from there you're ready for Beckett and Camus. " said.

" I love this book. It's one of my favorites. It's absolutely hilarious. You totally have to read it. " said.

" This is the book that taught me that humor doesn't always have to follow the rules. The absurdism absolutely flavored all my daydreams from then on. All in all, it's actually a painfully short book and it's so weird that it makes one's brian stumble a bit at places. I guess that's what's great about it. " said.

"I was only half-way interested in reading this book out loud to my son, who received it as an end of year gift from his second grade teacher. I expected it to be kind of dumb because I knew it was meant to be "funny", and my idea of funny doesn't always overlap with a seven-year-old's. But we tried it for lack of other reading material at hand, and it turned out I was captivated by the oddness of it. The stories, 30 of them, to match the 30 stories of Wayside School (which was accidentally built sideways with all the classrooms stacked on top of each other), vary from the gently goofy to the downright surreal. There's no emotional depth to it at all, but there's not meant to be, so that didn't seem to matter. It's just strangeness for the sake of strangeness, and somehow it worked. " said.

" Sachar captures how arbitrary and pointless and incomprehensible school can be. But somehow, he makes it funny and touching instead of confusing and frustrating and awful like it is in real life. " said.

May 2018 New Book:

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