Wayside School is Falling Down is the second of three books in the Wayside School series and continues the stories of the kids in Mrs. Jewls's thirtieth-floor classroom. The book is, like its predecessor, divided into thirty chapters, each revolving around a particular student, teacher, or event and each being only about four or five pages long. The stories are hilarious, relying on wordplay and absurd situations for their comedy, including an entire story involving prune juice that is told backwards and has to be read from end to start to be understood properly.
Unlike the original book, there is something of an underlying story being told in this edition. A new student joins Mrs. Jewls's class, and he cannot bring himself to tell the class his real name, so he makes up the name "Mark Miller" and passes that off as his real name. Several stories revolve around Mark working up the courage to tell his class his real name and never quite managing it, with hysterical results.
Sachar's absurdist humor is in fine form in this book, and the kids from Wayside School will once again delight your children, be they 5 or 95.
There was a long gap between the first and second Wayside School books (approximately 11 years between their respective first editions) and the humor in this book, while maintaining the wordplay and bizarre situations that characterize the series, has grown more complicated, and arguably funnier.
As with the previous book, the speaking cast in this book is absolutely huge, so I really didn't do too many special voices. The only new voice (MAJOR SPOILER) is Miss Zarves, a teacher who does not exist. I gave her a calm, sharp demeanor (think Atticus Finch as a woman) as a contrast to her actual purpose, thus preserving the reveal that she is a bad guy across the three stories she appears in. Not that it fooled B or A, but hey, at least I tried.
As with the previous book in this series, the humor in this book revolves heavily around simple wordplay, ridiculous situations, and inherently-contradictory text. As an example, a character named Allison gets stuck in a class on the 19th floor (which, as we learn in the first book, does not exist) and must try to remember her original class in order to escape, all the while being accosted by a non-existant teacher to do homework for which she always gets an A but will never end. And this goes on for 3 stories, all of which are marked as the 19th story.
Yeah, it's that kind of book...
...Which must be why my kids LOVED it, even though it gave them headaches.
"Noooo! That's not how that works! I mean, it is, but it's not."
This was B's reaction to the end of the first story, in which a computer is delivered to Mrs. Jewls's classroom by yard teacher Louis, who had to climb thirty flights of stairs to do so. Mrs. Jewls promptly pushes said computer out a window in order to teach a lesson about gravity. B would go on to have some version of this reaction for every second story.
"How did Miss Zarves not exist? She gave that girl (Allison) homework! How do you do homework that does not exist? Now I have a headache."
A is still trying to work out how a nonexistent classroom manages to exist. I sometimes catch him lying on his back, staring at the ceiling, wondering if the 19th story can be real when no-one in it is real.
"Miss Zarves did exist. But the homework didn't. But Allison did! But the room didn't."
This was K's attempt to comfort A by rationalizing the problem of the 19th story. I'm not sure how much it helped.
With simple, easily-digested morals and hilarious wordplay, Wayside School is Falling Down is a fantastic read-aloud book. Sachar's humor-laden stories will make your kids go from "what?" to "oh!" to "HAHAHA!" to "waaaait a minute..." in about 10 seconds. Witnessing them piece together the jokes ("Ohhhh, I get it!") and scrunch up their little faces as they try to work out the problem is one of the more joyous experiences we've had in the Read-Aloud Corner, and I'm sure you and your family can have that experience too.
Just watch out for falling computers. And prune juice. And cowbells.
Seriously, read this book!
Recommended Age: 5 and up