Sachar wrote Sideways Stories From Wayside School after he worked as an aid at an elementary school in California. Sachar claims that all the chapters in this book come from his real experiences at that school. Because Sachar seems to go out of his way to have his stories make no sense, readers will rightly conclude that not making sense is one of the book's main themes.
An example of nonsense in Sideways Stories is not having a nineteenth floor in a building that is thirty stories high, and then having a teacher send a student to the nineteenth floor to deliver a note to a teacher who is not there.Having a rat show up at the school as a student would be silly, but having a dead rat play the role of a student also makes absolutely no sense. Sachar exaggerates the lack of rationality in this book to stress and to emphasize how some children feel about school.
In a real school, subjects that students study, such as math, sometimes make little sense to them.Students struggle to make sense of the logic of math in real life.So by presenting Joe with an inability to count numbers in a straightforward manner, the author is emphasizing how difficult it is to learn math. Sachar uses the theme of nonsense to help students laugh at their own difficulties in studying complicated subjects. Sachar is essentially asking: why does Joe have to count "1, 2, 3, 4, 5" when he gets to the same number 5 by counting "2, 1, 4, 3, 5"?Joe gets all his math problems wrong when he tries to do them the way everyone else does them.When he uses his own method, he gets the right answers. Through Joe, Sachar demonstrates how students sometimes feel when they study math in school.
Another theme that Sachar plays with is the concept that students are smarter than their teachers. Although this might not be necessarily true in real life, in this novel the students often come up with better answers and solutions than Mrs. Jewls does.Sometimes school rules are very complicated, and they are left unexplained.And sometimes these rules appear to defy any logic, so students create solutions that are much simpler, and therefore they think they are smarter than their teachers. In a book that is written to make young readers laugh, having the students smarter than the teacher is very funny indeed.
Sachar also uses magic, like the kind often seen in fairy tales, to create humor.Seeing students not as children but rather as monkeys leans on a fairytale type of theme.And a dead rat being able to pass itself off as a student could only happen in a tale of fantasy.