I don’t know that I have much of a framework for “reviewing” books like this. I’m obviously old enough that I identified with the cranky old teacher who would rather turn people into apples than deal with their nonsense. Wayside School is obviously a strange little book with strange little characters. It’s like fantasy for eight year olds. A book grounded in something they understand, a classroom, and expands on the complexities and simplicities of learning, friendship, and recess, while being out of this world wacky. I can see how kids my niece and nephew’s age would laugh and laugh at the silliness. I also can see how the bouncy, punchy read could keep the attention of its intended audience.
As an adult, I appreciate a couple of things about this book. One, every student in the classroom gets a chapter – or at least most of them. They are all their own self. I think it is a subtle but important point for kids. We are all someone with individuality, flaws, silly sides, and deserve our own chapter. Secondly, the writing is obviously for a certain grade level, but there are these moments of brilliance and poetry in the writing – particularly the last sentences. “You need a reason to be sad. You don’t need a reason to be happy.” “It’s funny how a person can be right all the time and still be wrong.” “[Eyes] can see everything except themselves.” Third, I don’t know if I like or don’t like this. But the kids are kind of a-holes. Not sure if highlighting that kids can be mean is being truthful to kids in a good way or in a bad way.