Wayside School Is Falling Down

Wayside School is Falling Down is a 1989 children's, dark comedy, short story cycle, novel by American author Louis Sachar, and the second book in his Wayside School series. Like its predecessor, it contains 30 chapters, although some chapters are interconnected in a more narrative form rather than as separate stories, as is the case for its predecessor. The title comes from the title of the favorite song of one character, Kathy, in the tune of 'London Bridge Is Falling Down', during the course of the book. The novel revolves around three main storylines: first is the introduction of a new student, Benjamin Nushmutt, while another involves Miss Zarves, the teacher of the nonexistent 19th-floor class. The third and final story-line, told in the final chapter of the book, ends in a cliffhanger.

Wayside School is Falling Down
4 edition
AuthorLouis Sachar
IllustratorJoel Schick (first edition)
Adam McCauley (second edition)
CountryUnited States
SeriesWayside School
Subjectthe school is falling down
GenreChildren's literature
PublisherLothrop, Lee & Shepard
(HarperCollins imprint)
Publication date
March 22, 1989
Media typePrint (in Hardcover and Paperback)
Pages179 pp (1st edition hardcover)
ISBN0-688-07868-0 (hardcover)
LC ClassPZ7.S1185 Way 1989
Preceded bySideways Stories From Wayside School (1978)' 
Followed byWayside School Gets A Little Stranger (1995)' 


1. A Package For Mrs. Jewls
After cleaning up the playground, which is covered in pencils and sheets of paper, Louis the yard teacher brings a heavy package to Mrs. Jewls' classroom, on the thirtieth floor of Wayside. Upon opening the package, it is revealed to be a computer. Mrs. Jewls then drops it out of a window and thanks Louis, noting that computers are much faster than pencils or paper.
2. Mark Miller
A nervous new student named Benjamin Nushmutt joins Mrs. Jewls' class. He tries to tell Mrs. Jewls his real name, but he is too shy, and everyone else assumes that his name is Mark Miller. Because he feels ashamed of his name, he eventually convinces himself that Mark Miller must be a better name, as he has become a popular student. Louis brings in Benjamin's lunch and leaves it on the teacher's desk, since there's apparently no one to claim it.
3. Bebe's Baby Brother
Bebe Gunn's homework has nasty notes about Mrs. Jewls on it; when confronted, Bebe claims it was a trick by her younger brother, Ray, so she receives an A+ and a Tootsie Roll Pop to make up for it. Eventually, Mrs. Jewls phones Mrs. Gunn to tell her about Ray's behavior; Mrs. Gunn replies by asking who Ray is.
4. Homework
Mac disrupts Mrs. Jewls' lesson on decimals with a wild story about losing a single sock; he found it in his refrigerator the next day. Next, he disrupts a lesson on dinosaurs with stories about watermelons. In the end, Mrs. Jewls gives up and assigns extra homework, which Mac complains about to his girlfriend, Nancy.
5. Another Story About Socks
Sharie brings in a hobo named Bob for show-and-tell. Bob tells a little bit about his life story, most notably that he "doesn't believe in socks". He once won a spelling bee while not wearing any socks, and notes that Albert Einstein never wore socks either. When Mac tells him about his missing sock, he is surprised when Bob guesses that it was in his refrigerator. After he leaves, the students take this notion to heart right before their weekly spelling test, removing their own socks.
6. Pigtails
Paul struggles with his desire to pull Leslie's pigtails. When she announces that she's getting her hair trimmed soon and promises to save him some split ends, Paul gets excited enough to knock himself out the window. Finding no other means to reel him back in, Leslie extends her pigtails to save Paul's life, and Paul vows to return the favor.
7. Freedom
Myron wishes to be free like a wild bird he befriends, whom he names Oddly. He attempts to satisfy this desire by wandering into the school basement, subsequently getting lost. He eventually figures out he is being followed, so he throws both his shoes into the darkness and then makes a run for it; he is eventually met with three mysterious men, one of which carries an attache case. They give Myron an ultimatum: to be safe or free. Myron chooses to be free, gets one shoe back, and finds his way back to Mrs. Jewls’ classroom. When she assigns a test, Myron refuses to take it, as he is now free. She later finds his other shoe in the refrigerator of the teachers’ lounge.
8. The Best Part
Todd brings a toy dog to class that keeps him out of trouble and can transform into a vicious wolf. In a bid to use that toy to her advantage, Joy misses that last detail and gets her pinkie chomped on.
9. Mush
The lunch special, for the 18th day in a row, is Mushroom Surprise. Ron surprises everyone by ordering it. Upon taking a bite, he enters a trance and kisses Deedee on the lips, with no memory of the event afterwards. The chapter ends when Mrs. Jewls enters the now-empty cafeteria just as Ron takes another bite.
10. Music
Benjamin tries to tell the class his real name, but his attempts are drowned out during music class. Each time Benjamin tries to tell Mrs. Jewls, the loudness of the class prevents her from hearing him. Additionally, the class misinterprets her requests for him to "speak louder" as an instruction to play their instruments louder, further hampering Benjamin's attempts. Finally, Mr. Kidswatter, the principal of Wayside, comes to Mrs. Jewls' class to relay complaints from other classrooms, telling her that they can't hear. Mrs. Jewls then tells the students to play even louder, so everyone can hear. Benjamin finally gets into the music class and decides to continue using his alias, feeling that "Mark Miller" is likely a better person than Benjamin Nushmutt.
11. Kathy And DJ
DJ becomes upset when he loses a watch given to him by his great grandfather. Kathy tries to make him feel worse about it in order to amuse herself, but to no avail, as DJ continually refutes her insults. She only ends up even more dumbstruck when she finds out why he's upset: he worries that a bird may mistake it for food and choke on it. Eventually, Myron's bird friend Oddly returns it to DJ, and he rewards it to Kathy, mistaking her taunts for comfort.
12. Pencils
Jason has a bad habit of chewing pencils. Jason has an idea to help him stop chewing on pencils; sucking on a Tootsie Roll Pop instead. When he goes to ask Mrs. Jewls for one, she pulls out tape instead, solving the problem by literally taping his mouth shut. At the end of the day, she notes how well-behaved Jason has been, and considers taping everyone else's mouth shut as well.
13. A Giggle Box, A Leaky Faucet, And A Foghorn
Joe and John poke fun at Dana for laughing and crying at animal stories, calling her “giggle box” and “leaky faucet”. To add insult to injury, they even give her a box of tissue paper wrapped up like a birthday present. When Mrs. Jewls reads a story about a skunk whose mother is run over, Dana blows her nose hard enough to warrant the nickname “foghorn”. Mrs. Jewls actually admires the girl's emotions, noting that it means she loves the stories a lot if she has such an emotional reaction to them. Dana then fears having a crush on John.
14. Calvin's Big Decision
Calvin announces that he's getting a tattoo for a birthday present. Despite other suggestions, he settles for a potato tattoo on his ankle. Though he notes the distaste of his peers, he decides that it doesn't matter, since he feels sure he made the right choice.
15. She's Back!
The students of Mrs. Jewls’ class claim to see Mrs. Gorf at random times on random spots around the playground. After relating his own bad experiences of his old teacher Mrs. Drazil, Louis watches for the former teacher while Deedee hangs from the monkey bars. Everyone feels assured when Mrs. Gorf does not seem to appear, though they ignore a larger set of footprints under the bars, made right next to Deedee's prints.
16. Love And A Dead Rat
Dameon denies being in love with Mrs. Jewls. To prove the opposite, he takes up a dare to leave a dead rat in her desk. Eventually, he fesses up to Mrs. Jewls, who says that she forgives him; she explains that, while most objects are gone once given away, if she gives away love, she simply has more than what she started with. The dead rat, disgusted by the sentiment, comes back to life and walks away.
17. What?
Jenny comes late to class one day after reluctantly drinking prune juice during breakfast. Upon arriving at class, she only manages to hear the punchline to the silly story. Not understanding the premise leading to the joke, Mrs. Jewls suggests that she reads the story in reverse so she can instead be surprised by the set-up. She follows Mrs. Jewls' suggestion, but at the end of her reverse reading, she ends up regurgitating her prune juice. Fittingly, the chapter is written in reverse; it can be read in proper sequential order when each paragraph is read from back to front.
18. The Substitute
Mrs. Jewls’ class gets a substitute teacher named Miss Franklin, and the students plot to prank her. When “Mark Miller” decides to tell everyone that his real name is Benjamin Nushmutt, they think it to be a prank, and begin to claim that they are all named Benjamin. At the end of the day, Miss Franklin reveals that her first name is Benjamin as well, leaving the students unsure what to think.
19. A Bad Case Of The Sillies
Allison wonders if her homeroom is technically on the 29th story, since there is no 19th. After getting knocked down the stairs a short way by Ron and Deedee, tearing her jacket, Allison proceeds to class and finds everybody ignoring her, especially when Jason accidentally swallows his pet goldfish. A frustrated Allison leaves the room and finds herself inducted into the classroom of Miss Zarves on the nonexistent 19th floor.
19. A Wonderful Teacher
Allison meets three other students of Miss Zarves’ classroom: a grown woman named Virginia, a teenage boy named Nick, and a slightly younger boy named Ray Gunn. None of these three remember where they originally came from, but don’t care, since they receive A's no matter which answers are right or wrong. Allison soon starts forgetting her own origins, while Miss Zarves provides incredibly tedious assignments, such as alphabetizing all numbers from zero to one million. The students in Miss Zarves' class work in 11-hour sessions with two-minute breaks, never leaving the room. During one break, Allison meets Mark Miller, who—in a twist of his counterpart in Mrs. Jewls’ class—is often called Benjamin Nushmutt.
19. Forever Is Never
Allison struggles to remember her origins while other students memorize the dictionary. Speaking to Mark, the two wonder if they may be in hell. Allison then realizes how Miss Zarves’ system works: assign busywork so the students have no time to think, make them memorize useless information so that they forget what's important, and give good grades no matter what to keep them happy. Allison then proceeds to reenact some of her old classmates’ mannerisms to frustrate Miss Zarves and ultimately escape. Following a sharp stabbing pain in her gut and foot, Allison wakes up back at the bottom of the stairs where Ron and Deedee pushed her. Suddenly, she has a revelation and everything briefly makes sense, but she soon forgets. Ron and Deedee apologize, and they proceed to the 30th floor, where Jason introduces his pet goldfish.
20, 21, & 22. Eric, Eric, & Eric
As the previous three chapters are all labeled 19, this chapter is labeled 20, 21, and 22 simultaneously. Mr. Kidswatter calls each of the three Erics up to his office, asking them tough questions for an unclear reason. Though the other two Erics answer honestly, the skinny Eric Bacon lies to him. At the end of the chapter, Mr. Kidswatter reexamines his evidence; a card from Charley's Barber Shop with the message “Mr. Kidswatter is a Mugworm Griblick”, signed by someone named Eric.
23. Teeth
Rondi grows in her missing front teeth and thinks she no longer looks cute. To resolve this, she contemplates having Terrence punch out her front two teeth, so they would never grow back. However, the other students begin to compliment her, so she holds a poll to decide whether she should keep them. It ends in a tie, but Rondi decides that her new teeth are useful for eating carrots, so she decides to keep them. She then remembers that Terrence is about to punch her, and ducks just in time.
24. Another Story About Potatoes
Joe orders potato salad from the cafeteria. He and John then shape it into Mrs. Gorf's face, and it immediately comes alive. They triumph over this menace by eating it.
25. A Story That Isn't About Socks
Stephen dresses up in a three-piece suit for picture day. Mrs. Jewls and his fellow classmates marvel at his silly outfit, although they are all wearing much more unusual outfits of their own. He shows the class that if he tightens his tie, he looks more handsome. The kids find it very funny and encourage him to tighten his tie even more, and Stephen does so, which makes him choke the more tighter he pulls his tie, until he pulls his tie so tight that it rips in half. Stephen fears that he no longer looks good, but Mrs. Jewls says that it is what is on the inside that counts, so if he wants to look important, he'll have to wear expensive underwear.
26. The Mean Mrs. Jewls
The chapter explains that, within every seemingly nice teacher, there is a mean teacher waiting to come out. Mrs. Jewls attempts to teach the class the capital of England, seven plus four, and how to make pickles, but none of them understand. A voice in her head tells her to be rotten whenever the students do something wrong, regardless of how or what she teaches. After Leslie answers a question wrong, Mrs. Jewls threatens to dump pickle brine on her until Paul intervenes, drenching the teacher instead. As punishment for acting improperly, Mrs. Jewls sends herself home early on the kindergarten bus.
27. Lost And Found
After Joy steals and eats her lunch, an unsuspecting Maurecia goes looking for it and finds a paper bag containing $20,655. Joy insists on spending it for themselves, but Maurecia gives it to Louis instead, who keeps it in the lost and found. Some time later, the owner of the cash—a former pencil maker named Mr. Finch—arrives to claim it. Mr. Finch spent his life making pencils to support his dream of opening an ice cream parlor, and as a reward for Maurecia's honesty, he gifts her with $500 and a lifetime supply of free ice cream. Joy, seeing an opportunity, mentions her involvement by admitting she stole Maurecia's lunch. Mr. Finch merely gives her a pencil.
28. Valooosh
An eccentric dance instructor with a thick German accent named Mrs. Waloosh teaches a dance class at Wayside. She teaches all of Mrs. Jewls' students (except for Myron, who used his newfound freedom to ditch) how to "tango"; in her class, this entails throwing kids into the air, throwing kickballs at each other, and other types of horseplay. When the session ends, the bruised and bleeding participants are eager to return, while also speaking in the same thick accent.
29. The Lost Ear
Benjamin once more attempts telling the class his real name, but then Mac tells a story about a hippie who lost his ear in a hair-cutting accident. Although Benjamin succeeds, his fear of being shunned is laid to rest when the others relate their own unusual experiences. Mrs. Jewls even gives him the unclaimed lunch that's been sitting on her desk for most of the year. Later, Allison encounters Mark Miller from Miss Zarves’ class. He holds a bag containing an ear like the one from Mac's story, which he states Miss Zarves told him to take to the hospital.
30. Wayside School Is Falling Down
A brewing storm makes a fire drill go awry when Mrs. Jewls’ class panics in various ways. Mrs. Jewls rings her cowbell so many times that the resulting sound is carried across the wind, attracting a herd of cows that fills the entire building. As a result, Wayside School temporarily closes down; the teachers and students are relocated to other schools, while Louis stays behind to remove the cows.
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