The kids of Wayside School — a school 30 floors high with one classroom on each floor — must prepare for the Ultimate Test as a literal cloud of doom settles overhead. Anyone who fails the test will be sent all the way back to kindergarten. The dark cloud of doom makes the wacky students and faculty even stranger: The school’s counselor tries to fix a student’s stuck face, Mrs. Jewls has a locked closet filled with mysterious contents, Sharie almost gets sucked into the dark cloud, and many more bizarre events happen at Wayside School.
This is Louis Sachar’s first Wayside School book since 1995, and it feels like we never left. This book made me laugh, and I was also in awe of how well all the narratives tied together into something surreal and kind of subtly profound. I really enjoyed the scene in which Sharie is sucked into the Cloud of Doom. As she rises alongside the towering Wayside School, she keeps wishing she had let go of her umbrella sooner. We’ve all been there — hesitating to make a decision until it’s too late. Even though the characters are involved in ridiculous scenarios, like an epic run up thirty flights of stairs punctuated by random quiz questions, they never give up. The class is trying to collect a million finger- and toe-nail clippings, and they just might succeed!
I recommend this book to anyone in elementary school with an off-beat sense of humor and to everyone who enjoyed these books when they were a weird kid themselves. Come to revisit the kids who haven’t changed since the first novel 40 years ago, stay for a paean to paper clips.