Wayside School Beneath the Cloud of Doom: Wayside School, Book 4

Book review by
Carrie Kingsley, Common Sense Media
Wayside School Beneath the Cloud of Doom: Wayside School, Book 4 Book Poster Image
Sweet absurdity abounds with normal kids in a wacky school.

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this book.

Educational Value

Weather information and minimal academic content. 

Positive Messages

Friendship and kindness are important, and sticking together makes it easier to get through tough times.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Some adults are helpful, and all students are given a chance to shine.

Violence & Scariness

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Wayside School Beneath the Cloud of Doom, the fourth in author Louis Sachar's Wayside School series, is another hilarious adventure with the students and faculty of one of the most absurd schools around. It's been 25 years since the last book was released, and life on the 30th floor classroom with Mrs. Jewls hasn't changed. Beneath the teachers' comically odd takes on math, spelling bees, and P.E., there's a feeling of warmth among the students as they learn to be more forgiving and to stick together. The oddball interactions between the faculty and students always come from a place of kindness: The terrifying Ultimate Test gives every student a chance to shine, and even the dreaded lunch lady gets it right sometimes.

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What's the story?

WAYSIDE SCHOOL BENEATH THE CLOUD OF DOOM brings readers back into Mrs. Jewls' classroom on the 30th floor of one of the most absurd schools around. A bizarre and overly complicated system of bells, horns, and even a gong sends the kids to class, lunch, and recess, while the doctor hypnotizes students, teachers have spelling bees with made-up words, and the kids in Mrs. Jewls' class decide to collect 1 million nail clippings for math. But things get even crazier when the Cloud of Doom sits above the school: Kathy's goofy face is frozen in place; an umbrella might've brought a student to class on the outside of the building; and there's a serious situation with the rope ladder to the roof. All of this makes it hard for the students to prepare for Mrs. Jewls' Ultimate Test, which is more individualized than any student realizes when they begin testing.

Is it any good?

This wacky story, like other books in th series, is made for kids who feel like they're the normal ones navigating school around an absurd bunch of grown-ups. Wayside School Beneath the Cloud of Doom might be a bit more outwardly crazy than what young readers see at their own schools, but surely they've thought teachers' assignments are sometimes insane. The winning combination here, though, is the absurdity intertwined with kindness, the way friends stick together, and the way everyone tries their best amid a cloud that makes things even crazier than usual.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about which ways the teachers' absurd lessons in Wayside School Beneath the Cloud of Doom are actually helpful. Have you ever thought a lesson at school was dumb, then changed your mind? Why or why not?

  • What's the strangest thing you've ever collected, either on your own or as a class?

  • Jason has an interesting experience with the long book. Which books have you been surprised by in the same way?

Book details

Our editors recommend

For kids who love funny books and school stories

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