Written by: Louis Sachar
Illustrated by: Joel Schick
Published in 1995
Grade Level: 3-5
Summary: Wayside School Gets a Little Stranger is the third book in the Wayside School series. The books are silly, and at times make little to no sense. Wayside School was supposed to be one floor with thirty classrooms, but the builders messed up and made it thirty stories high with one classroom on each floor. This book begins with Louis (the yard teacher) repairing the school and getting all the cows out so the students can come back. The book then goes on to describe all of the crazy situations faced by the students in the 30th floor classroom throughout the year. From their teacher going on maternity leave to the substitutes who cover for her (each of which has something wrong with them), Wayside School Gets a Little Stranger is full of crazy (but entertaining) stories.
Cover: The cover on my copy of the book is a bit different from the normal copies of the book. On my copy, the word “Stranger” glows in the dark.
I think I bought it at a Scholastic Book Fair when I was in elementary school. From googling the book I must say that this isn’t my favorite version of the (many different) covers. The cover almost makes me think that it’s supposed to be more of a horror story rather than a comedy. I do remember though, that as a kid I was really, really excited that it glowed in the dark.
Illustrations: The only illustrations in this book are the pictures at the beginning of each chapter. Some of the pictures are great at hinting at what is to come, while others don’t work out quite so well. I did like the style of the illustrations and I felt that they added something special to the story.
The Good: The Wayside School books were a favorite of both mine and my classmates in elementary school. Our 4th or 5th grade teacher (I can’t remember which) would read the books aloud to the class, and we were always really excited to listen to them.
The books are full of funny short stories, most of which connect to other chapters throughout the book. One example of this is found towards the beginning of the book when Paul is hypnotized to try and eat Leslie’s ears whenever she says the word “pencil.” Nothing comes of this until much later in the book when Leslie does finally say “pencil,” at which point you had mostly forgotten that Paul was hypnotized in the first place.
Wayside School Gets a Little Stranger is also full of inside jokes relating to the series. These are small things that you can’t fully appreciate unless you’ve read the other books (so you should definitely read the series in order). For example, the 19th chapter in the book is about the class on the 19th floor… which doesn’t exist…
The Bad: Since this is such a silly book, some chapters end up being absolutely ridiculous. For example, the sixth chapter (Pet Day) just gives me a headache when I read it. All of the pets apparently have ridiculous and confusing names, from a cat named “Dog” to a dog named “What.” The three Erics all named their pets “Billy” (a dog, a cat, and a goat), and Sharie has a turtle named “Yorpet” (which becomes confusing when she tells the teacher “Your pet is a turtle”). The way the dialogue is written in the chapter (ex: “Your pet” instead of “Yorpet”) makes everything even more confusing. Thankfully, at the end of the chapter there is a list of the students, their pets, and what kinds of animals the pets are. I had to spend at least ten minutes re-reading the chapter with the list in mind to really understand what was going on.
My one other complaint about this book is the fact that the characters are all very one dimensional. Kathy is the rude girl. Todd is the one who gets in trouble unfairly. Sharie wears a big coat so she can sleep in class. Benjamin hates his name. Mr. Kidswatter is the principal who hates children and tends to do stupid things. Mrs. Jewls is the nice teacher… and so on. Louis (who is supposedly based on the author) has more depth and character development than anyone else in the series.
Final Thoughts: On the whole, I think the Wayside School books are fantastic. They are a bit crazy, but they appeal to many children’s sense of humor. I plan to buy the first two books in the series, and possibly the two spin-off math-based books as well.
I give Wayside School Gets a Little Stranger four stars!