Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Sideways Stories from Wayside School by Louis Sachar

Wayside School was supposed to be a one-story building with thirty classrooms. The builder accidentally made each classroom an entire level, making the building look more like a skyscraper than a school! (Oh, and no matter what anyone tells you, there is no nineteenth story.)

Each chapter in Sideways Stories from Wayside School by Louis Sachar focuses on a different character from one class in particular: the class on the thirteenth story. Mrs. Gorf is known for being the meanest teacher at the school. She turns bad kids into apples. Then something unbelievable happens (shh - only the kids in her class know what happened!) and she is replaced by Mrs. Jewls, a very nice lady who is incredibly nervous about her new job. Luckily, the kids take to her, and she stays.

Mrs. Jewls could not have known how very . . . unique these students would be. Take Sharie, who "spen(ds) all of her time either looking out the window or sleeping," then falls out of the window and stays fast sleep until she is caught by Louis, the yard teacher. Consider Kathy, who does not like anyone, or Maurecia, who is liked by everyone (except Kathy) but only really likes ice cream. Meet artistic Bebe, gum-chewing Joy, mysterious Sammy, the three Erics, and more.

The characters reappear in Wayside School Gets a Little Stranger and Wayside School is Falling Down, each aptly titled, each illustrated in a similar manner. Just when you think things can't get any stranger at Wayside School, they do! Look at the cafeteria food closely, and watch out for the cows. Young readers will wish their school was as silly as Wayside School. Prepare to laugh 'til the cows come home. Really.

The last two books in the line, Sideways Arithmetic from Wayside School and More Sideways Arithmetic from Wayside School combine quizzes and logic puzzles with story bits. There's a new student at Wayside, and she doesn't quite understand how YOU + ME is a math problem. Oh, but it is!

These books are fun to read out loud in an elementary school classroom. Have kids discuss their favorite character, or vote for the character with the coolest-sounding name. The chapters are very short, so it's also great for kids who are just latching on to chapter books as well as reluctant readers. Students could also create a new character - a new student, a new teacher, a new....rat? - and write a new chapter mimicking the author's writing style.

The books in order:
- Sideways Stories from Wayside School
- Wayside School is Falling Down
- Wayside School Gets a Little Stranger
- Sideways Arithmetic from Wayside School
- More Sideways Arithmetic from Wayside School

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