Mrs. Jewls’s class returns in Wayside School is Falling Down. The characters from Sideways Stories from Wayside School are back, but they’re joined by some new friends this time around. Following the same 30 chapter, 30 short story format as its predecessor, Wayside School is Falling Down is bound to keep fans of Sideways Stories in stitches.
There are even more dead rats this time (although none so funny as in Sideways Stories); we get to learn a bit more about the mysterious missing 19th floor and a new boy, Benjamin Nushmutt, gets into all sorts of scrapes trying to find the right time to tell people he’s not really Mark Miller.
There’s one slightly uncomfortable chapter about a hobo. I’m not really sure where the world stands on hobos these days, but it seems like maybe that’s a term that we shouldn’t use. It certainly isn’t the same as homeless, since it implies a more transitory life, but the tone is that hobos can be laughed at, and I’m not sure that it’s ever the case that we should find humor in homelessness.
My favorite chapter is the one that you have to read backward. I think kids will love it when they figure out what they need to do
Sex, Nudity, Dating – Boys and girls have to dance together. Bebe’s brother threw all her underwear out the window. Mushroom Surprise (a school lunch choice) makes you kiss people! A student gets a tattoo (I seriously do NOT have a category for underage tattooing) and someone suggests he get a naked lady tattoo. A student is in love with his teacher. To avoid being teased by the other kids he puts a dead rat in her desk. He confesses to her later that he did it because he loves her and didn’t want the other kids to know. She tells him she loves him too. He asks “what about Mister Jewls?” and she tells him that love doesn’t get used up. The more you give away, the more you have to give.
Profanity – “darn,” “shut up,”
Death, Violence and Gore – A girl’s name is Bebe Gunn. More dead rats. Joy gets attacked by a cuddly puppy toy that has turned into a biting wolf toy. Kathy tends toward singing rather violent songs, such as “Wayside School is falling down…Kids go splat as they hit the ground,” and “broken bones and blood and gore”. A mother skunk is killed by a car. Someone is eaten by cannibals. That sounds a lot worse than it is, I promise.
Drugs, Alcohol and Smoking – None
Frightening or Intense Things –If this is used as a read aloud with younger children (primary grades), some may be upset at Chapter 26. In this chapter we learn that “There is no such thing as a nice teacher.” and that “Inside every nice teacher there is a mean and rotten teacher bursting to get out. The nicer the teacher is on the outside, the meaner the teacher is on the inside.” Older kids will not likely be frightened by this (and may enjoy making a connection to Miss Nelson and Viola Swamp of Miss Nelson is Missing fame). Younger children may worry about their own nice teachers turning mean.