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Literature / Wayside School

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Wayside School is a children's book series by Louis Sachar (Holes) about the weirdest elementary 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.

This series includes examples of:

  • Accidental Misnaming:
  • 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.
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  • Artistic License – Physics: In Sideways Stories, Sharie falls out the window while sleeping. Never mind that Louis is able to run all the way across the length of the playground and pass through the various swing-sets, monkey-bars and ball-courts to catch her before she hits the ground — if you fall from any decent height, you're going to die from the impact, or at least suffer broken bones, whether or not you're actually caught. (That said, her heavy coat may have cushioned the fall. That, or physics saw what was going on at the school, and decided that it didn't want to get involved.)
  • Asleep in Class: Sharie is always asleep in class. Mrs. Jewls doesn't mind—she believes Sharie learns better that way.
  • Association Fallacy: Everyone assumes all three Erics are fat (Eric Bacon is not), mean (Eric Ovens is not) and bad at sports (Eric Fry is not).
  • 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.
  • Author Avatar: Louis, which is also the author's name. It's actually stated in the last chapter of the first book. The books are very loosely based on Louis Sachar's time as an elementary school T.A. and recreation supervisor in college.
  • Babies Ever After: Mrs. Jewls' is on maternity leave leave for the majority of the third book. She shows up at the end of the last chapter to show the class her new daughter.
  • Bait-and-Switch: Happens in Wayside School Gets A Little Stranger, when Dr. Pickell/Pickle brainwashes Paul so that, upon hearing the word "pencil", he will see Leslie's ears as candy. The rest of the chapter deals entirely with the subject of a lost pencil, yet not one character says the word "pencil." That having been said, the chapter is titled "A Story With a Disappointing Ending." Several chapters later, when you're not looking for it, the Brick Joke hits.
  • Bitch in Sheep's Clothing: All of the substitute teachers in Gets A Little Stranger, especially Wendy Nogard.
  • 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.
  • Break the Cutie: Miss Nogard does this with the class using the mind-reading ear on top of her head. Everyone, including Miss Nogard, gets better when Mrs. Jewls returns with her baby.
  • Brick Joke:
    • 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. Nine 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.
      • Or, Ray met the same fate as Allison finding his way into Zarves' class, and never got out...
    • 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.
  • Brilliant, but Lazy: Joy shows signs of this at times.
  • Butt-Monkey:
    • 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 sent to your school.
  • Call-Back: Many, often numerous chapters later. For example, lost shoes always being found in refrigerators is brought up early on, and three chapters later a student loses a shoe, which is found in the fridge of the teacher's lounge.
  • Care-Bear Stare: Something like this happens to Wendy Nogard in Wayside School Gets A Little Stranger when she tries to use her evil telepathic powers on Mrs. Jewls' baby: "Babies don't think in words. Miss Nogard heard pure love. And trust. And faith. With no words to get in the way. It was a love so strong that it dissolved away all the bitterness that had been caked around her heart."
  • 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.
  • Character Development:
    • In the first book, Eric Fry is explicitly described as a Jerk Ass. However, come third book, he goes out of his way to offer Leslie a pencil.
    • Nancy (a boy) is originally shy and quiet over shame of his name. But when he trades names and becomes Mac, he always has something to talk about.
  • Cheerful Child: All the children except Kathy (most of the time) could qualify, D.J. and Todd most of all.
  • The Chew Toy
  • Child Hater: Pretty much all the teachers except Mrs. Jewls and Louis, although Mrs. Gorf takes the crown for turning the students into apples. The principal, Mr. Kidswatter, is also a Child Hater, though his Punny Name should be a dead giveaway.
  • Children Are Innocent: Miss Nogard, who is bitter over a broken engagement and capable of reading thoughts, is asked to hold Mrs. Jewls' new baby. As she does, she realizes she's never read a baby's thoughts before. Curious, she decides to listen. Whatever she heard is left to the reader's imagination, but her bitterness fades as a result.
  • Cloudcuckoolander: Just about everyone, but three in particular stand out:
    • 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).
  • Color-Coded for Your Convenience: The playground balls are color coded. The green balls are the best, followed by the red balls. Then there's the one yellow ball, which doesn't bounce and never goes the way it's kicked.
  • Comically Missing the Point:
    • 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.
    • When the kids are writing poems, Joe struggles with finding a rhyme for "red," so Mrs. Jewls tells him just to think of words that end in "-ed." So he writes the following poem:
    The fire truck is red!
    It hurried!
    The siren wailed!
    The house burned!
    The firemen saved
    The baby who screamed.
  • Continuity Nod:
    • 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 Arithmetic 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.
  • Cool and Unusual Punishment: The penalty for doing anything wrong in Mrs. Gorf's class is being turned into an apple.
  • Cool Teacher:
    • Mrs. Jewls.
    • Louis the yard teacher.
  • 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.
  • Dean Bitterman: Mr. Kidswatter.
  • 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.
  • Death by Newbery Medal: In-Universe. Dana claims to hate when Mrs. Jewls reads stories like these to the class because they make her laugh and cry too much. Mrs. Jewls then explains to her that her laughing and crying over those stories means she actually loves them, and she wishes the rest of the class loved them as much as her.
  • 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.
  • Deus ex Machina: The kids are able to randomly produce a mirror to keep Mrs. Gorf from turning them back into apples.
  • Did Not Think This Through: Mr. Kidswatter finally has elevators installed in the school, but he doesn't want the chaos that the stairs had with kids constantly running into each other because they were on the wrong side of the stairwell, so the elevators were programmed to only go in one direction. One only goes up, and the other only goes down. They end up working perfectly once, and then never again.
  • Does Not Like Spam: Jenny hates prune juice. She hates it so much, she ended up being late for school because her mother wouldn't let her leave the table until she drank her glass. Later after she got to school, she threw up. It was purple.
  • 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".
  • Down the Rabbit Hole: Allison when she joins Miss Zarves' class.
  • Ear Worm: In-Universe: On Miss Nogard's first day at Wayside, D.J. has a song he hates stuck in his head. So Miss Nogard hums said song whenever she is near D.J.
  • Eldritch Location The Nineteenth Floor.
  • Epic Fail: In the Sideways Arithmetic chapters about grading tests, practically no one gets 100%, even though the questions look easy. For instance, at least four kids bombed a Nations of the World test, because, among other quandaries, they don't know where Australians come from.note 
  • 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.
  • Everything's Deader with Zombies: If you count the dead rats that is.
  • Evil Teacher:
    • Mrs. Gorf and her son both count; as the mother turned all of her misbehaving students into apples, while the younger Gorf would steal his students' voices whenever they talked.
    • Later, Miss Nogard.
    • Mrs. 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!
    • Miss Zarves, who is briefly implied to be Satan. That said, Miss 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, Louis, 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 Miss 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.
  • Flanderization: In Sideways Stories, Joy steals Dameon's lunch (and frames several other students for the theft) because she's hungry, and feels so guilty over it that for the rest of the year, she can't eat a turkey sandwich, an apple, or a piece of chocolate cake (the foods that were in Dameon's lunch) without having the taste ruined by the memory. In the two subsequent books, one of Joy's major character traits is a habit of stealing things, including, at one point, someone else's lunch.
  • Freudian Excuse: Wendy Nogard becomes a bitter Child Hater after being abandoned by her lover for having a third ear.
  • Funny Foreigner: Dance teacher Mrs. Waloosh, who pronounces her w's like v's, and whose dan—er, tango lessons sometimes include throwing children up into the air.
  • Fun with Acronyms: The professional organization that Louis belongs to is called the Professional Organization Of Playground Supervisors.
  • Gender-Blender Name: Nancy and Mac
  • The Generic Guy: With 30 students in all, it is clear that some of them are going to be characterized a little more than others. That said, some fall into this trope, notably Calvin, Leslie and Ron.
  • Genius Ditz:
    • Joe can somehow get all the right answers despite lacking basic counting knowledge. He also has exceptional drawing and knitting skills that he seemed unaware of.
    • His best friend John is one as well. Although John is cited as one of Mrs. Jewls' smartest pupils, he can only read upside down.
  • Getting Crap Past the Radar: In Wayside School is Falling Down, Calvin's classmates gives suggestions for where he should put the tattoo he's getting.
    "I know where you should put it," said Dana. "But I can't say it." She giggled like a maniac. Then she whispered it into Jenny's ear. Jenny giggled too.
    • Later Calvin comes back with a tattoo but nobody can see it.
    Dana gasped. "I know where!" she exclaimed.
    She and Jenny giggled.
    • Another example:
    "A naked lady!"
  • Gilligan Cut: Invoked. As part of a punishment, Mrs. Jewls gives Joy a two-question true-false exam. Joy proclaims that she could solve it "in two seconds." The exam reads:
    1. Statement 2 is true.
    2. Statement 1 is false.
    Narration: While Joy continues to work on that...
  • 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 Jenny into an apple, she holds up a mirror and Mrs. Gorf transforms herself instead.
  • Hot Teacher:
    • Mrs. Jewls, according to Dameon.
    • 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  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.
  • Hypno Pendulum: Dr. Pickle gets his nickname from the fact that he uses a stone shaped like a pickle to hypnotize people.
  • 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.
  • Ironic Nursery Tune: The titular poem of Wayside School is Falling Down changes "London Bridge is Falling Down" into a scenario in which the school falls down and all the kids hit the ground and die. Kathy likes reciting this because if she and the other students died, they wouldn't have to go to school anymore.
  • 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"
  • I Taste Delicious: Averted, or perhaps inverted, in an early story where Mrs. Jewls brings the students ice cream that tastes like themselves. Everyone remarks how delicious their classmates taste (especially Maurecia, who bites Todd at the end of the story because his ice cream flavor is so good), but when a student tries his or her own flavor, they taste nothing at all. (Which makes sense in a nonsensical, childlike way — it's the taste you taste when you're not tasting anything.) The only exception is Kathy-flavored ice cream, which Maurecia says tastes like old bologna.
  • Incredibly Lame Pun: The ballroom is both the room where the playground balls are stored as well as the room where the children learn ballroom dancing.
  • It Makes Sense in Context: Occasionally, but more often than not, it doesn't make sense even in context.
  • Jerkass:
    • Mrs. Jewls punishing Todd, even when he saves the class from getting robbed.
      • He does get a hero’s goodbye, though.
    • Kathy, full stop.
    • Joy, to a lesser extent, though she does occasionally show regret for her bad actions, and even gets the occasional Pet the Dog moment.
    • 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.
  • Karma Houdini:
    • 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 he worked for much of his life making pencils for chump change. But now that he has his life-earnings 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.
  • Larynx Dissonance:
    • 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: In chapter three of Wayside School Gets A Little Stranger the students are asked to write poems about colors. Allison can't figure out what to rhyme "purple" with. She eventually writes "The baby won't stop crying. His face is turning purple. Will anything make him feel better? I bet a burp'll"
  • 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."
  • Literary Agent Hypothesis: Louis is stated to be the author and narrator of the books, yet is always referred to in the third person. In the first chapter, he explains that the stories you're about to read have been called strange and silly, but that's okay — when he told stories about your school to the kids at Wayside, they thought you were strange and silly, too. Louis Sachar revealed in some interviews that he really did work as a yard teacher before becoming an author, and that he named Mrs. Jewls' students after some kids who attended that school.
  • Loads and Loads of Characters: 30 students, plus various recurring teachers and staff.
  • 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 Miss Nogard in Wayside School Gets A Little Stranger.
  • Manipulative Bastard: Again, Miss Nogard.
  • Meaningful Name: "Wayside" is basically a backwards way of saying "sideways"; both the school itself and everything that goes on in it are backward or sideways in some way.
  • Meganekko: Dana, who is said to be even more pretty with her glasses on.
  • The Men in Black: The Men with the Attache Case.
  • Mind Screw:
    • 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.
  • Mirrors Reflect Everything: Jenny uses a mirror to make Mrs. Gorf turn herself into an apple.
  • Missing Floor: The nineteenth.
  • Mood-Swinger: Dana is very emotional, and it doesn't take a lot for her to switch from hysterical laughter to loud sobs and back again. This is especially evident during story time, because all the emotional beats of a story hits her much harder than anyone else.
  • Moon Logic Puzzle: The math books.
  • Motor Mouth: Mac becomes this from the second book on. When he was called Nancy, he barely spoke because he was embarrassed about his name, but once he becomes Mac, his newfound confidence makes a difference.
  • Mundane Fantastic: All the books have a lot of weird things going on, like dead rats that show up in raincoats posed as school children. Amusingly enough, the final chapter of the first book features the characters learning about an ordinary school and they find that to be strange.
  • 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.
  • Namesake Gag: In one of the books, the kids are playing music and wonder how the triangle got its name. They decide it can't be named for its shape because "then the tamborine would have to be called a circle", so they reason it must have been invented by Joe Triangle.
  • Nausea Fuel: Invoked in a chapter titled, "Mush". Ron has some of Miss Mush's mushroom surprise for lunch, and gets compelled to suddenly kiss Deedee, then Mrs. Jewls. The chapter begins with a warning that the reader probably shouldn't read the rest of it after eating, or before eating, or if the reader planned to eat something ever again.
  • Never Live It Down: In-Universe examples:
    • 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 Children Decided They Had to Get Rid of Mrs. Drazil" starts out with a long list of Mrs. Drazil's admirable qualities (e.g. 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.
  • Never My Fault: Kathy's introductory chapter in the original Wayside School book has her repeatedly say "I was right, you were wrong", despite every misfortune she suffers during the chapter being her own fault (wasting a cookie someone made for her by leaving it in her desk until it got stale, closing her eyes while trying to catch a kickball coming right towards her). The book even lampshades it by saying "It's amazing how somebody who's always right can still be wrong.
  • 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.
  • Nice Guy:
    • Louis, who is probably the single nicest adult in the series. That is, unless he's been made to shave his mustache off — then he becomes an uptight, snooty, borderline Jerkass. Luckily it doesn't last.
    • Myron is one of the friendliest and most laid-back kids on the thirtieth floor. Says a lot that when he in Falling Down gets complete freedom to do whatever he wants, he never does anything worse than skip a few tests or lessons he doesn't feel like taking.
    • Allison, in addition to being the closest thing the series has to an Only Sane Man, is also one of the kindest kids in the series, always doing kind things for others. She even tries to befriend Kathy, even if this backfires.
    • In addition to his constant smiling, Falling Down shows DJ to be this; he loses an expensive watch given to him by his grandfather, and his only concern is that a bird might mistake it for food and choke on it. When the watch is found, he gives it to Kathy in thanks for making him feel better note .
    • Maurecia, though less blatantly so than Allison, is still a very sweet girl and everyone likes her. It doesn't hurt that Jerkass Joy is her best friend — Maurecia's sweetness just comes better across when contrasted against Joy's far less sweet nature.
    • And of course Eric Ovens, who's always friendly and polite, even if everyone mistakenly thinks he's a jerk because to the other two Erics are jerks.
  • 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.
    Allison: What if you have to go to the bathroom?
    Virginia: What's a bathroom?
  • No Smoking: Possibly due to being from the book from the 90s, Wayside School Gets Even Stranger averts this trope. A woman went to a psychiatrist to help stop smoking.
  • Not Even Human: Sammy, once he's stripped of every raincoat.
  • Not Quite Dead: It is said that dead rats are always trying to get into Mrs. Jewls' room. Said rats are also capable of speech and raincoat-wearing.
  • Odd Friendship: Joy, a dishonest kleptomaniac and Karma Houdini (most of the time) who is usually responsible for Todd getting sent home early every day, and Maurecia, a forthright girl so sweet she is everyone's favorite ice cream flavor, are best friends.
  • Oh, Crap!: In the third book, when Mrs. Jewls goes on maternity leave, and the class finds out that their substitute teacher is a man named Mr. Gorf. They wonder if he's Mrs. Gorf's widowed husband, but they're relieved to learn that he's never been married. They get a second Oh, Crap! when he reveals that he's actually Mrs. Gorf's son.
  • One of the Kids: Louis the yard teacher not only enjoys his job but also loves to play with the children he oversees during recess.
  • One-Paragraph Chapter: Sideways Stories has one. "There is no Miss Zarves. There is no nineteenth story. Sorry."
  • One Steve Limit:
    • The three Erics' premise plays around with this.
    • 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.
  • Only Friend: Nancy's only friend is a girl who never asks what his name is. Turns out he is her only friend for the same reason. Her name is Mac. Then they trade names. After this, he becomes very friendly and talkative.
  • Only Sane Man:
    • 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 Miss Zarves' class.
    • Sue in the Sideways Arithmetic books.
  • O.O.C. Is Serious Business: How Miss Mush notices something is up. See below.
  • Out-of-Character Alert: Miss Mush recognizes that something is wrong when she hears Jerk Ass Kathy saying, "Have a nice day!"
  • Overly Long Gag: Mrs. Jewls struggling to remember the password needed to fix her home computer.
  • Painting the Medium:
    • 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.
    • Chapters 19, 19, and 19, also from Falling Down, which are three chapters about Alison being stuck on the 19th Story.
    • The three chapter 19s are immediately followed by "Chapters 20, 21, & 22," a single chapter story about the three Erics playing a game, to keep the book at an even thirty stories.
  • Parental Neglect: Miss Zarves became so mean because growing up everyone treated her like a doormat or didn't care for her opinion. Even her parents were too busy for her.
  • Perfectly Cromulent Word:
    • 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 need a reason to be sad. You don't need a reason to be happy." In fact, it's a real sign of how bad things are getting in A Little Stranger, when D.J. is in a bad mood.
  • Pie in the Face: Miss Mush has to do this to Mr.Gorf to get the kids' voices back.
  • Power Trio: The Three Erics.
  • Precocious Crush: Dameon has one on Mrs. Jewls. "Love and a Dead Rat" handles that crush in a sweet and rather mature way where Mrs. Jewls says that she loves Dameon too (albeit in a platonic way) and explains that love is an emotion, not an item, so giving away love means that you end up receiving more love.
  • Properly Paranoid:
    • Mrs. Jewls hates dead rats more than anything in the world. Dead rats are always trying to get into her room.
    • Jane Smith had a suitcase and getaway boat handy in case her former Sadist Teacher from 26 years ago ever tracked her down. It actually happens.
  • Psycho Psychologist: Dr. Pickell, the school psychologist. He's not Ax-Crazy, though, he just likes to use hypnosis on people to make them do stupid things. For example, he helped a woman kick her smoking habit but now she slaps her husband whenever he mentions potatoes.
  • Punny Name: Bebe Gunn and her imaginary little brother, Ray Gunn.
  • Puppy Love: The books are full of them. Jason and Allison is probably the most prominent but others include: Paul and Leslie, Dana and John, Calvin and Bebe, DJ and Kathy, Terrence and Rondi, Ron and Deedee, and Todd and Joy. A possible canon example is Mac and Nancy, a girl from another class. She's his friend in the first book but is said to be his girlfriend in the second. It's unknown if that's meant in a romantic sense but she does carry his books.
    • In Sideways Arithmetic from Wayside School, Word of God confirms that Jason and Allison are secretly in love with each other.
  • Reality Ensues: In the third book, the principal makes a new rule to ensure that no one will crash into each other on the stairs. When going upstairs, stay to the right. When going downstairs, stay to the left. Guess how well that works.
    • To keep this from happening again, two elevators are installed, one that only goes up and one that only goes down. Guess how often each elevator is used.
  • Reasonable Authority Figure: Louis.
  • Reptiles Are Abhorrent: Played with: look at the names of the substitute teachers in Gets a Little Stranger...
  • Rich Bitch: Kathy, if you believe she's telling the truth about her parents being rich.
  • Running Gag:
    • Todd getting sent home on the Kindergarten bus every day.
    • Paul loving to pull Leslie's Pigtails.
    • All three books mention potatoes at least once.
    • There is no 19th story.
    • Mrs. Jewls hates dead rats.
    • Dameon running all up and down Wayside.
  • Sadist Teacher: Mrs. and Mr. Gorf. Wendy Nogard also counts.
  • Satan: It's implied that Miss Zarves may be this. Though it's later hinted that she's being held against her will by a higher power. Which may or may not be enforced by three men who are known for breaking the barriers of reality and "mysterious contracts"
  • Samus Is a Girl: Sideways Stories never mentions Nancy's gender until near the end, when the chapter revolving around him unexpectedly reveals him to be male.
  • Sdrawkcab Name: "Gorf", "Drazil", "Nogard".
    • 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 (if a little heavy on the details — for instance, people saying what they're going to do followed by a description of them doing it — due to the lines that were put in specifically to maximize the gag).
  • Selective Enforcement: Todd. Every day.
  • Self-Fulfilling Prophecy: The crux of Kathy's introductory chapter in the first book. Kathy hates everyone she knows because at one time or another, they told her something bad wouldn't happen, or something would be fun or taste good, with Kathy always angrily insisting the opposite — but it's shown that her negative predictions only came true as a result of her own actions. The chapter concludes with Kathy's reason for not liking you, the reader: She thinks that if you met her, you wouldn't like her.
    See, she was right!
  • "Shaggy Dog" 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.
  • Shout-Out:
  • Sleep Learning: Sharie. At least, that's what Mrs. Jewls believes.
  • Something Only They Would Say: "Rub a monkey's tummy! Rub a monkey's tummy with your head!"
  • 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...
  • Sticky Fingers: Joy, oh so much.
  • 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.
  • Sweet Tooth: Maurecia loves ice cream, and it's noted that her desk is sticky since she's used it to stash some of her midday snacks. Mrs. Jewls even manages to invent new flavors of ice cream after being inspired by her.
  • Talking Animal: All dead rats can talk. Though it's unknown if they only gain the ability to speak after they're dead.
  • 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.
  • Teacher/Student Romance:
    • 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.
  • Theme Naming:
    • 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.
  • Tomboy and Girly Girl: Arguably, Joy and Maurecia, respectively.
  • Trademark Favorite Food: Maurecia loves ice cream.
  • 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.
  • Tsundere: Joy toward Todd, Jason toward Allison, Terrence toward Rondi, Paul toward Leslie (though it only shows in his obsession with pulling her pigtails), and John and Dana toward each other. The series is very aware of the fact that kids tend to tease and annoy their crushes to get their attention.
  • The Unfavorite: Bebe claims she is this in her family to her younger brother, who, with his presence on the nineteenth story, may or may not have existed.
  • Unhappy Medium: Before she started using her mind reading power to make everyone as miserable as she could, Wendy Nogard found most people's thoughts to be "boring."
  • Uninstallment: Chapter 19 in the first book.
  • Unsettling Gender Reveal: Invoked by Miss Nogard, who can read minds and uses it to pick at people's insecurities. Dana gets a haircut and worries that it makes her look boyish, so Miss Nogard intentionally calls her a "handsome young man".
  • 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.
  • Upside Down Blueprints: How Wayside ended up being constructed the way it is.
  • Viewers Are Geniuses: Much of the humor requires at least two or three reads to fully grasp.
  • Wacky Homeroom: Oh so very much. Everyone has their own odd quirks, some moreso than others.
  • What Happened to the Mouse?:
    • Sue is a student in the Sideways Arithmetic books. She is never seen or even mentioned in the main trilogy.
    • Jason and Stephen are said to be best friends in the first book but they have no noticeable interaction after that.
  • Wham Line: "Mrs. Gorf was my mommy!"
  • Who Names Their Kid "Dude"?: The narrator, of all people, regarding Myron.
    Narrator: Myron named [the bird] Oddly. Myron named him oddly.
  • Who's on First?: Pet day for this school is pretty much like this. Except even bigger.
  • Why Did It Have to Be Snakes?: Mrs. Jewls is Properly Paranoid of dead rats. (Don't underestimate them just because they're dead!)
  • With Friends Like These...:
    • 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.
  • Woman Scorned: Wendy Nogard, AND HOW!
  • World of Pun: The books are full of puns, both stealth and otherwise.
  • 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.
  • Would Hurt a Child: It's implied Miss Nogard wanted to throw Mrs. Jewls' newborn out the window.
  • Writing Around Trademarks: In the story "A Giggle Box, A Leaky Faucet, and a Foghorn" a book and a song both make Dana cry. Neither title is mentioned nor are they quoted, but they are clearly meant to be Charlotte's Web and Puff the Magic Dragon.
  • Year Outside, Hour Inside: Miss Zarves' class.
  • 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 Gotta Have Green Hair: Stephen.
  • 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 for making hateful phone calls to their own mothers. Oddly, he is never once shown thinking of going after Louis for his role in Mrs. Gorf's demise.
    • Possibly justified in that Louis' role in the incident was inadvertent (all he did was eat an apple) while the kids were the ones who knew what was going on and allowed it to happen.
    • It's also never stated whether Mr. Gorf knows exactly how his mother died. Depending on what details he has, he may not have known Louis was involved at all.
  • Zombie Apocalypse: Downplayed with the Zombie rats, as they don't show any actual zombie traits. They're dead rats that walk and talk.


Example of: