Wayside school was built sideways, instead of being one story with thirty classrooms, it was thirty stories with one classroom per floor. The children were all eccentric and the teachers were nuts. No idea what I’m talking about?
Before Holes starred Shia LeBeouf, the author of the book wrote a series called Sideways Stories from Wayside School, Wayside School Gets a Little Stranger, and Wayside School is Falling Down. As a child, I loved these books. As an adult, I still enjoy them immensely. They didn’t make the author famous and they probably didn’t make him filthy rich, but they touched the lives of school kids all over the place in the 1980’s.
My early summers were filed with these books and there’s a nostalgia associated with them. Even as I aged and read more complex books and books for adults, those stories still played a role. I can’t tell you the number of times I read the Wayside School books and probably, don’t want to admit it anyway, it would only serve to prove my geekiness.
However, without Louis Sachar and the Wayside School books, I wouldn’t be where I am today. These were the first books I “re-read.” At least twice a year, I would check them out from the school library. I’d bring them home and my mother would smile and shake her head as I delved into the stories I already knew all over again. I distinctly remember in third grade, I was reading on the second in the series before dinner and my mother asked “what I was reading.” I told her “I needed something lighter than Stephen King, so I’m reading Wayside School Gets a Little Stranger again.”
To most, this would sound precocious from an eight year old, from me, it was the truth. I had needed a break from a Stephen King novel and had gone back to a favorite for young children.
The enjoyment I got from these books actually made me pick up a pen for the first time and write a story. It wasn’t particularly good, I was eight, but it was a short story. There was a beginning, a middle and an end, it was coherent and made sense. Encyclopedia Brown got me interested in mysteries, which turned into a love of Sherlock Holmes and by ten, I was trying to write my first mysteries. Dismal failures, but by then, I’d been bitten by the writing bug.
And so, I tip my hat to Louis Sachar and Donald J. Sobel for turning a little girl who loved to read into an adult who loves to write.