There is nothing quite like reading a Wayside School book for the first time. And up until last year when this one was published, that was something I never thought would happen for me again.
I had read the first three to Eleanor a couple years ago and we laughed constantly. These three remain her favorites, and are the ones I most often find under her pillow when I am changing the bedsheets. Her copies are well-loved now, and she reads chapters at random, whichever one strikes her fancy at that moment. I love that she loves this school and these kids as much as I did when I was in elementary school. She was so excited when I told her a fourth volume was coming and we snatched it up from the library as soon as it landed.
I was, however, extremely nervous about this fourth book coming out 25 years after the third installment. I wondered if it would feel dated if it had to keep with the tone of the others, and maybe the reason the other three didn't feel dated is because I had read and loved them so much as a child. After all, the first book was written in 1978, before I was even born!
I also worried that instead of feeling dated, it would be UPdated and everyone would have iPhones and laptops.
Silly me. I should have trusted Louis Sacher more.
The plot certainly did not disappoint, if you could call it a plot? The overall goings-on is that there is this vaguely-references Cloud of Doom heading toward Wayside School and the kids are all incredibly busy and hard at work studying for the Ultimate Test so now they have two things to worry about. Yet Mrs. Jewls guides them all in her normal fashion and the children survive in the most Wayside Schoolish way possible.
I have to admit, this did feel like it had some finality to it, that this was our last chance to visit with the kids from the 30th floor. Things left hanging in other books were wrapped up nicely. Sacher's magic of the first three books is perfectly captured here and everything about the book is familiar and comforting. I think it is a pretty powerful thing when an author can do that so easily, despite the long passage of time since the last publication. The students and teachers all retained their some quirks and characteristics and if this is the last one, the series has gone out on a high note.
I'll share a highlight now of my favorite part at 97%. It made me so happy that it happened, but so sad that it took so long, that this is what she had been waiting for all this time. If you remember Miss Mush, the lunch teacher, it may strike the same chords with you:
Mr. Pepperadder grabbed and shook Miss Mush's arm.
"They like it!" he said excitedly. "Look at them! They really like it!"
Miss Mush didn't say a word. A tear rolled down her sweaty and sooty cheek.
"Did you write down the recipe?" he asked.
Miss Mush shook her head. "There is no recipe," she whispered. "No two rainbows are the same." She gazed out across the lunchroom. This was all she ever wanted.
Highly Highly Recommended.