Big things are happening on TV Tropes! New admins, new designs, fewer ads, mobile versions, beta testing opportunities, thematic discovery engine, fun trope tools and toys, and much more - Learn how to help here and discuss here.
Wayside School is a childrens book series by Louis Sachar (Holes) about the weirdest grade school ever.Most notably, it's a skyscraper with one classroom per each of its thirty stories. It was supposed to be one story high and thirty classrooms along, but the plans were accidentally held sideways. (The builder said he was very sorry.)He also forgot to build the nineteenth story. Also: the principal's name is Kidswatter, there's the group of Men in Black living in the basement, and one time the school was filled with cows.The story focuses on Mrs. Jewls' class on the 30th floor, in which each student has their own quirks and bizarrities.The books themselves always have thirty stories. There are three books in the main series. The first, Sideways Stories from Wayside School, introduced the characters and devoted a chapter to a story revolving around each one. The second, Wayside School Is Falling Down, introduced a new student to the mix but otherwise follows the same structure. The third, Wayside School Gets a Little Stranger, largely abandoned the formula to present what was more or less a continuous story: Mrs. Jewls goes on maternity leave and the students must cope with a variety of substitutes in her absence. There were also two Sideways Arithmetic books, which involve mathematical Moon Logic Puzzles, including letter-substitution arithmetic. Mrs. Jewls' word math is even mentioned in the main series.The series manages to show an accurate understanding of the average schoolchild's perspective: the world is a huge, strange place where arbitrary things happen. In 2007, the books were picked up by Teletoon and made into an Animated Series, which has its own page here.
Aesop Amnesia: In Sideways Stories from Wayside School, Joy steals Dameon's lunch because she forgot hers and his looked delicious. She felt so guilty afterwards that she couldn't eat those foods again for a year. In Wayside School is Falling Down, she steals her best friend Maurecia's lunch for no apparent reason.
The Atoner: Mrs. Drazil, Louis' old Evil Teacher, is nothing but pleasant towards her current students, seeming to hint at this trope. But then it becomes subverted when she still bears grudges against her former students. Don't touch that blue notebook either.
Audience Surrogate: The math books introduce a new student, Sue, whose confusion over Mrs. Jewls' approach to learning is intended to mirror that of "normal" people. She doesn't cross over into the main books, likely because she is never given any quirks of her own to set her apart from the other students.
Book Ends: Louis explains at the beginning of Sideways Arithmetic From Wayside School that he wrote the book because he wanted to show the readers who wished they could go to Wayside School to "eat ice cream, draw pictures, and watch movies about turtles" that Mrs. Jewls asks tougher questions than they probably expected her to. In the last chapter, Joy invites Sue to come to her house after school, so they can eat ice cream, draw pictures, and watch movies about turtles.
In "A Story With a Disappointing Ending", Paul gets hypnotized into thinking Leslie's ears turn into candy whenever she says the word pencil. Unfortunately, despite the story revolving around her breaking and then losing her pencil, she never says the word "pencil" during that chapter. Several chapters later, the students throw a pencil sharpener out of the window and it breaks. Leslie remarks on how they're going to need a new pencil sharpener...
At one point, Bebe Gunn claims to have a brother named Ray, which her parents say she made up. It's later revealed that he's a member of Miss Zarves' class, along with all the made up students in the book.
The pencil sharpener incident also involves throwing down Mr. Kidswatter's coffee pot (they're testing Galileo's theory of objects with different masses falling at the same rate). Several chapters later, he asks on the intercom if anyone's seen it.
What is the first thing Mrs. Jewls does upon finding out Mark Miller's name is actually Benjamin Nushmutt? She hands him the lunch that's apparently been sitting on her desk since his first day of school.
At the beginning of the third book, it's revealed that Louis has gotten all the cows out of the building, but still sometimes hears a "moo" coming from somewhere inside the school. In the nineteenth chapter, it's revealed that there's a cow in Miss Zarves' room.
When Deedee asked Ron what the surprise was when he tried Miss Mush's mushroom surprise, his face flushed, his eye changed color and he gave Deedee a huge kiss across the lips (completely unaware that he had done it). Mrs. Jewls later asked Ron the same thing, Ron's face flushed and his eye changed color… A few chapters later, we learn that Mrs. Jewls has not only made Miss Mush throw away the rest of the mushroom surprise, she also made her promise to never make it again.
Louis. He's like a slave for these obnoxious, crazy children every day and has gotten physically hurt by two. And, of course, he had to get a lot of cows out of a thirty-floor school building for over half a year. He couldn't even leave!
Todd is sent home early every day due to Mrs. Jewls' Selective Enforcement of her rules. Even when Wayside closes for a year and the children are all sent to other schools, he's said to have been sent to the very worst one. He was sentto your school.
Call Back: Many, often numerous chapters later. For example, lost shoes always being found in refrigerators is brought up early on, and then several chapters later a student loses a shoe, which is found in the fridge of the teacher's lounge.
Cassandra Truth: In Falling Down, Benjamin finally works up the courage to tell the class his real name. However, it just so happens that the class has a substitute that day, and they think Benjamin is trying to mess with her, so they all gleefully start claiming that their names are Benjamin also.
Can't Get Away with Nuthin' : Todd, pretty much ever. This phenomenon is subverted in the last book when Todd comes in late but Mrs. Jewls doesn't punish him since she is glad to see he is okay. But then it's double subverted when Todd gets in trouble for saying the word "door" despite the fact he wasn't there when Principal Kidswatter banned the word.
Sharie, who is next to never seen awake because she learns better that way, and when she is awake, she is doing things like bringing a hobo for show-and-tell.
Joe, who can't count but can always get the correct answer to counting problems in Sideways Stories. His strange mathematical methods also show up in later books.
Stephen, who not only dresses (in-universe) oddly, but believes that the more a necktie chokes him, the more important he looks. And he has green hair (it's explained in the third book, from a poem he wrote, that he swam in a pool with too much chlorine which permanently dyed his hair).
Mr. Kidswatter interrupts a noisy music class in Mrs. Jewls' room by saying the teachers have started complaining that they can't hear. After he leaves, Mrs. Jewls tells the kids to play even louder so that the teachers who couldn't hear their music before can hear them.
When Todd brings in his baby brother on pet day, Mrs. Jewls says a human is not a pet. Todd simply replies that his brother doesn't bite.
In Sideways Stories, Myron saves the life of Dana's dog, Pugsy. Thus, when the class bring their pets to class in the "Pet Day" chapter of Gets a Little Stranger, Dana's pet is left out of the Who's on First? gimmick employed throughout the chapter since her pet had already been acknowledged in the previous book.
One of the problems in More Sideways Stories From Wayside School gets deemed the hardest question in the whole book before Mrs. Jewls asks it. However, it gets skipped over after the students trick Mrs. Jewls into canceling the pop quiz containing the problem. The number of the question treated like this? Nineteen.
In the first book, Stephen wears his Halloween costume to school and everyone finds it funny. In the next book, Stephen's picture day suit is met with a similar reaction with someone pointing out his history of wearing silly costumes.
Cosmetic Award: A non-video-game use. Miss Zarves dishes out tons of busy work, among it dictionary memorization, but she gives straight A's no matter how her assignments are completed, making the work even more hollow and meaningless.
Darker and Edgier: Gets a Little Stranger is noticeably darker than the rest of the series.
Death by Irony: Mrs. Gorf, the meanest teacher the class ever had, who turned all her students into apples, gets turned into an apple and eaten by Louis.
Depraved Dentist: Jane Payne, nee Smith. She even pulls out teeth that don't need to be pulled out, because then her patients pay more.
A Dog Named Dog: Inverted on pet day when a dog named Cat and a cat named Dog were brought in.
Double Meaning Title: Wayside School Gets a Little Stranger, true to its name, is definitely the weirdest of the three books, but the title also refers to the baby girl Mrs. Jewls gives birth to at the end of the book, the "little stranger".
Eureka Moment: For one brief, shining second, everything — why Benjamin Nushmutt and Mark Miller got confused, who had their lunch, socks, and why Mark has dismembered body parts in a bag — makes perfect and logical sense to Allison...and then she forgets before she can explain.
Every Episode Ending: The last sentence of the last chapter of each book (except for Sideways Arithmetic and More Sideways Arithmetic) follows a similar format:
Sideways Stories: Everybody booed.
Falling Down: Everybody mooed.
A Little Stranger: Everybody oohed.
Everything's Better with Monkeys: Zig-zagged: When Mrs. Jewls started teaching at Wayside, she thought all the children looked too cute to be human. This caused her to mistake them for monkeys. However, she admittedly doesn't think it seems enjoyable to teach a classroom full of monkeys.
Miss Drazil (who's not from Brazil) appears nice and caring, even making them cookies. However, she makes Louis shave off his mustache.
Even Mrs. Jewls herself gets this in one story, which is introduced by saying that inside every nice teacher is a mean teacher waiting to come out. The nice teacher resurfaces in the end, and punishes herself for her temporary lapse in the same way that she punishes disobedient students — by sending herself home early on the kindergarten bus.
Though not strictly a teacher, the principal Mr. Kidswatter otherwise qualifies. He hates his job and the students. Heck, his name is Kidswatter!
Mrs. Zarves, who is briefly implied to be Satan. That said, Mrs. Zarves appears is be completely unaware she is holding her students prisoner. She isn't even aware that she is being held prisoner, or that no one can see them. She just keeps teaching, every day, all day. Forever.
Pretty much every teacher but Mrs. Jewls and Mrs. Franklin, the substitute for one chapter of Wayside School is Falling Down.
Exactly What It Says on the Tin: Mrs. Jewls asks Dameon to ask Louis if he would like to join them for a screening of a movie called, Turtles. After Dameon does this, Louis tells him to ask Mrs. Jewls what the movie's about. She answers, "Turtles." Ultimately, Louis decides not to watch the movie, because "Turtles are too slow."
Expository Hairstyle Change: Louis loses his multi-colored mustache when he becomes stricter. It grows back after the sight of Ms. Nogard causes him to lighten up again.
Fashion Hurts: Stephen insists that uncomfortable shoes and a choking tie are necessary to look good for picture day.
Heavy Sleeper: Sharie. Not only is she hardly ever seen awake, but she sleeps in a winter coat with hood, regardless of season. She's also able to stay asleep while falling thirty stories out of a window.
Hoist By Her Own Petard: When Mrs. Gorf tries to turn a student into an apple, the student holds up a mirror and Mrs. Gorf transforms herself instead.
Miss Nogard as well. She's described as pretty in the text and Eric Bacon even mentions it.
Hypno Fool: Psychiatrist/School counselor Dr. Picklenote His last name is actually spelt, "Pickell", but he got this nickname in reference to his hypnosis charm, which resembles a pickle. loves to play pranks on his customers. For example, he hypnotized a woman to quit smoking, but added the suggestion that she slap her husband whenever he said "potato". Later there's a Brick Joke where one of his pranks bears fruit after the reader has stopped looking for it.
Irony: In the last chapter of the first book, Louis tells Mrs. Jewls' class a story of what regular schools are really like. The kids, having only known Wayside, can't fathom things likes like a normal built building and teachers with no powers. They promptly boo him once he finishes the story. However at the end of the second book, the school gets closed down due to a cow infestation (it's a long story involving a fire drill and a bell). The kids are shipped off to regular schools where they do indeed find Louis's stories to be true. By the time the third book starts, they're more then happy to return to Wayside.
Ironic Nickname: The three Erics each have one. "Fatso" is the skinniest, "Butterfingers" the most athletic, and "Crabapple" the sweetest-tempered, because the other two have those qualities and the students just assume they all do.
Is This Thing Still On?: Kidswatter repeatedly forgets to turn off the microphone. In Gets a Little Stranger he goes onto the morning announcements and sounds cheerful, then once the announcements are done goes into a loud rant about how he hated coming back there to look after a bunch of stupid kids.
"What button? I don't see a red button, there IS no red button! Oh here it"
Terrence is part Jerkass part Jerk Jock, described as "a good athlete, but a bad sport."
Eric Fry and Eric Bacon are described as being mean in the first book; Bacon because everyone calls him "Fatso" (due to their belief that all Erics are fat, since the other two Erics are fat), and Fry because he always has to play right field when the kids play kickball. As a further result, everyone thinks Eric Ovens is a Jerkass as well (earning him the unflattering nickname "Crabapple") but in reality he's quite nice and polite.
But the biggest one of all is Sammy, a dead rat in a disguise of raincoats.
Miss Nogard is never punished for the way she used her mind reading powers to make her students miserable and turn them against each other all while making herself look like a nice teacher in the process. In fact, nobody even finds out that she did it.
Invoked with Myron, who gave up his safety for complete impunity. Thankfully, Myron is just a Nice Guy who wants to have a good time.
Joy came off as one in the first book by virtue of sitting next to Todd, who gets in trouble for everything anyway. However, she does come into some Laser-Guided Karma in the second book.
Karmic Jackpot: Maurecia once found a bag containing a large amount of money on the playground. Instead of spending the cash herself, she submitted it to the lost and found. Eventually, the person who lost the money comes to reclaim it. He explains to Maurecia that now that he has it back, he can open his own ice cream parlor. He then rewards Maurecia for helping him by allowing her to receive a lifetime's supply of free ice cream from his parlor. Joy subsequently points out that Maurecia wouldn't have found any bags in the bushes if not for her stealing Maruecia's lunch. As a result, the man gives her a pencil.
After Miss Mush tricks Mr. Gorf into sneezing out all the voices he stole, some of them end up in the children's empty throats. They get the wrong voices at first.
Mr. Gorf's natural voice is high and squeaky, sounding like a French donkey with a sore throat. The voice he normally used was a gentle brogue stolen from a Scottish man.
The Last of These Is Not Like the Others: The three Erics each have one thing in common with two of the other Erics which the last does not. So no matter which order you list them in, this trope simultaneously applies to all three of them: Eric Bacon's the one that isn't fat, Fry is the one that's actually a good athlete, and Ovens is the one that isn't a Jerkass all the time. Double Subverted in that the other kids assume that all three Erics are fat, poor athletes, and generally jerks — even though the narrator explicitly points out otherwise.
Least Rhymable Word: Allison has to write a poem using the word "purple" for one assignment. After going through the alphabet multiple times, she decides to rhyme it with "burp'll," as in, "I bet a burp'll stop that baby from crying."
Lethal Chef: Miss Mush, the school lunch lady, who at one point picks up a severed nose and decides it would go well with spaghetti sauce.
However, the math book stated that she's a Supreme Chef... provided she cooks for a small number of people. The larger the number, the worse it is.
Granted, it's not the food itself that's bad (Ron is able to eat it and says it's not bad) but it does cause some very weird effects.
In Sideways Stories, it is said that Miss Mush has "the remarkable ability to overcook and undercook a dish at the same time."
Logic Bomb: In the second-to-last chapter of Sideways Arithmetic, Mrs. Jewls overhears Joy mock Myron and Stephen for doing more poorly than she did on some True/False quizzes. In response, Mrs. Jewls gives Myron and Stephen some insanely easy quizzes to rebuild their confidence, and punishes Joy with a quiz that proves impossible to answer. ("1. Statement 2 is true. 2. Statement 1 is false.")
Love Makes You Evil: Well, the lack thereof; see Mrs. Nogard in Wayside School Gets A Little Stranger.
In Sideways Stories, Calvin is told to take a note to the non-existent Miss Zarves. Additionally, Mrs. Jewls forgets to give him the note. Calvin isn't sure what to do, so he asks Louis' advice. Louis tells him that "you're not supposed to give no notes to no teachers". Calvin goes back to the classroom without doing a thing. Mrs. Jewls thanks him for carrying out her errand. Calvin tries to explain, but when he proves unable to do so, he just says, "Really, it was nothing."
Hell, the entire (non)existence of Miss Zarves and her class is one of these. The 19th floor room seems to be the habitat of people who are forgotten, made-up, or are alternate versions of real people.
The story where everyone brings their pets into class, at least until the Mind Screwdriver at the end.
All the books have at least one of these for certain. There's even one chapter simply called "What?" (which is written in reverse paragraph order).
Mind Rape: Miss Nogard takes advantage of every single insecurity and issue that the students have to slowly transform them all into bitter hateful jerks.
Mystery Meat: Miss Mush, the lunch lady, can cook very well — if she's only cooking for one or two, but the more food she cooks, the worse it tastes. It's said that she cooks 500 meals a day, and only two students at a time are willing to eat it, and half of those who eat it go home sick. Mystery Meat is only part of the dishes she serves. Notably, as bad as it tastes, it can cause a person to spontaneously kiss someone and leave them with no memory of the act.
Eric Fry was a nearly-flawless athlete, but became saddled with the nickname "Butterfingers" because of one play he failed to make in a baseball game. For bonus points, the ball was hit to left field, he was in right field, and he almost made it. Which makes you wonder what kind of useless athletes the left and center fielders must have been.
Also, "Why The Class Must Get Rid Of Mrs. Drazil" starts out with a long list of Mrs. Drazil's admirable qualities (eg, her great cooking skills, her patience with struggling students), before finally noting that the children will never forgive her for making Louis shave his mustache.
In the second chapter of the first book, when Mrs. Jewls first comes to Wayside, she happens to overhear Todd talking and makes an example of him by placing his name on the discipline list. From that moment on, Mrs. Jewls seems to keep her eye especially on Todd, who gets punished for even the slightest breach.
New Transfer Student: Benjamin Nushmutt in Falling Down. Only everyone thinks his name is Mark Miller. until near the end, when he FINALLY corrects them. They don't seem bothered by it though, until he starts lampshading everything around the school's foundation.
Nightmare Retardant: In-universe example. Mrs. Gorf returns as a ghost one Halloween afternoon, to exact revenge on Mrs. Jewls' class. Stephen becomes elated that someone else in the school remembered to celebrate Halloween, and hugs her. This causes her to vanish before she can punish anyone.
Nobody Poops: This applies to the students on the 19th story, which Allison finds out when she ends up there.
Three other classmates have rather similar names: Ron, Rondi and Myron.
Benjamin Nushmutt is introduced as Mark Miller his first day in class, and because he hates his own name, he never corrects this. Later, Allison meets an actual Mark Miller on the nineteenth story, and he is annoyed that people keep calling him Benjamin Nushmutt.
Relatedly, when the class gets a substitute teacher one day, he finally announces his true name after answering a question, but the other kids think he's pranking her and follow suit, temporarily leading to a class full of Benjamins. Including the substitute.
Allison is arguably the most normal character in the series. Her stories usually center around her reacting to the strangeness that surrounds her. She's also the only one to realize some of the weirder implications of the stories' universe, such as the fact that if there is no nineteenth floor, then their classroom is really only on the twenty-ninth floor. Of course, given the Mind Screw nature of the universe, the moment she realizes this, everyone in Mrs. Jewls' class forgets about her and she ends up in Ms. Zarves' class.
Speakers who are upside-down for whatever reason often have their dialogue printed upside-down.
Chapter 17 of Wayside School Is Falling Down is about Jenny reading a story backwards so she could be surprised by the beginning (she only liked stories with surprise endings and already knew how this one ended). The entire chapter is backwards. The audiobook takes this a step further — after reading the story the way it's written in the book, the narrator says this doesn't sound right and reads it backwards, including reading the chapter title at the very end.
Mr. Kidswatter once spilled his coffee by accidentally bumping into a closed door, and got so mad, he announced that no one in Wayside School can ever use the word, "door", again. He tells them to use the word "goozack" instead.
"Mr. Kidswatter is a Mugworm Griblick."
Perpetual Smiler: D.J. When he's asked why he's always so happy, he replies, "You don't need a reason to be happy. You need a reason to be sad."
Pie in the Face: Miss Mush has to do this to Mr.Gorf to get the kids' voices back.
Falling Down has an entire backwards chapter, where you have to start at the end for it to make any sense. Appropriately, the chapter is titled "What?" The whole concept is used to its maximum comic potential; read forwards, Jenny seems to take off her motorcycle helmet before saying she was going to do so before Mrs. Jewls told her to do so — which leads to apparent Department of Redundancy Department in some cases. Read backwards, however, it becomes a normal story.
"A Package For Mrs. Jewls", the first chapter of Wayside School is Falling Down, has Louis carry a heavy computer from the first floor to Mrs. Jewls' floor. When he reaches her door, he has to hold up the computer for several more minutes, while the kids decide who should open the door. After Louis finally brings the package inside the room, Mrs. Jewls unpacks the computer, and proclaims that it will help her students learn new things more quickly. She then demonstrates the concept of gravity by dropping the computer out the window and letting the kids see how quickly it can fall to the ground and smash.
The construction of one-way elevators in the school that are literally one-way, not even going back for students on floors behind it. They're used until they reach the top and bottom floors, and then are never able to be used again.
Spoof Aesop: "It's on the inside that matters". One of the students wears an expensive suit to be important, however Mrs. Jewls tells him the standard line, only to add "that's why you have to wear expensive underwear".
Stealth Pun: In the third book, we're introduced to Jason's dentist, Dr. Payne. Later, we're introduced to her husband, Sham. Which means her husband's full name is...
Strange Minds Think Alike: Mrs. Jewls' students all seem to intuitively understand her strange approach to math, while outsiders are utterly baffled by it.
Strange Secret Entrance: The school is thirty stories tall, but of those thirty, they forgot to build the nineteenth. It does not exist, and its resident teacher Miss Zarves and her entire class are entirely imaginary. Nonetheless, a student ends up there by accident in one story. Hell, somehow, a cow ended up there. (It was probably unaware that there was no nineteenth floor.) Which only adds to the cluster-WTF that is the Nineteenth Floor.
Tastes Like Diabetes: Invoked in the Chapter "Love and a Dead Rat" where a conversation between Mrs. Jewls and Dameon is so sappy the titular dead rat says "This is getting disgusting!" and walks out of the room.
Dameon is known for being in love with Mrs. Jewls, something that concerns him at the same time since she is married. But after he confesses, Mrs. Jewls assures him that if she gives her love to someone, she will have more than she started with.
It is also implied that Deedee has feelings for Louis the yard teacher.
The three Erics' last names are Bacon, Ovens, and Fry.
Several of the non-Mrs. Jewls teachers (Mrs. Gorf, Ms. Drazil, Ms. Nogard) have surnames that, when spelled backwards, are reptiles or amphibians (even if one of them doesn't technically exist).
This Isn't Heaven: When Allison gets stuck doing busy work for a week on the 19th story, her classmate Mark Miller thinks they've died and gone to--
Allison: This isn't heaven! Mark: That's not what I was going to say.
This Loser Is You: When Wayside School closed and the students sent to other schools, Todd was sent to the worst of all. The narrator begins to describe what he had to do every morning, but then stops himself. You already know what Todd had to do, because Todd was sent to your school.
Title Drop: "Wayside School is falling down" becomes part of a song the children sing, as well as the last chapter of the second book.
Tribute to Fido: Sideways Stories From Wayside School has an in-universe example: a boy named Nancy, who dislikes his name, trades names with a girl named Mac, who disliked hers because she had been named after a dog.
Unusual Chapter Numbers: The second book has three Chapter 19s. The following chapter is "Chapters 20, 21, and 22" to make up for it. Which, in a strange way, makes perfect sense, as each chapter usually focuses on one kid. Chapters 20, 21, and 22 all focus on one kid each, but it's all the same story.
Joy consumes her best friend's lunch when the friend isn't looking and only fesses up to it when she thinks there's something to gain from it.
Rondi wants to write a poem about the color purple, but her best friend, Allison, asks Rondi not to since she wants to use purple as well and wouldn't let it lie even when Rondi suggested that they both could use purple.
There was a rumor that Allison knocked out Rondi's two front teeth.
World of Weirdness: Especially in the third book, appropriately titled Wayside School Gets a Little Stranger, which had, among other things, a substitute teacher with an ear on top of her head that allowed her to "hear" people's thoughts.
Yes Virginia: Kathy proclaimed in a Christmas-themed chapter that she doesn't believe in Santa Claus. Mrs. Jewls and Louis don't support her claim, and tell the kids that they can help Santa by doing things like acting nice and singing happy songs. When the chapter ends, she still doesn't believe in him.
You Helped Kill My Mother: Inverted. Mrs. Gorf's son swore revenge on the class of Wayside's 30th story after they tricked her into turning herself into an apple, which then got eaten by Louis. He carries out his revenge by substituting for a pregnant Mrs. Jewls, stealing the kids' voices, and attempting to frame the kids of making hateful phone calls to their own mothers.
Zombie Apocalypse: Downplayed with the Zombie rats, as they don't show any actual zombie traits. They're dead rats that walk and talk.