Book summary: Alexander wakes up with gum in his hair, and his day does downhill from there. He’s the only one who didn’t get a prize in his cereal, he forgets to count sixteen, he’s the only one with a cavity, and there’s kissing on TV. Maybe, Alexander thinks, I should just move to Australia.
My impressions: You never want to laugh at someone else’s misery, but it is fun to commiserate with Alexander. It reminds me of one of my favorite phrases, “It started out as a bad hair day, and went downhill from there.” In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised if Judith Viorst had read that phrase before she sat down to write this book. Reading about all the ridiculous things that happen to Alexander, some self-imposed, some outside his control, it’s easy to think about those days when everything just goes wrong and feel like you’re not alone.
Citation: Viorst, J. (1972). Alexander and the terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day. NY: Atheneum Books for Young Readers.
In the spiky spirit of Sunday Morning (1969) but more truly attuned to a child’s point of view, Viorst reviews a really aggravating (if not terrible, horrible, and very bad) day in the life of a properly disgruntled kid who wakes up with gum in his hair and goes to bed after enduring lima beans for dinner and kissing on T.V. At school, “Mrs. Dickens liked Paul’s picture of sailboat better than my picture of the invisible castle,” and at lunch, “guess whose mother forgot to put in dessert?” After school “my mom took us all to the dentist and Dr. Fields found a cavity just in me,” and there is worse to come. It’s no wonder the kid’s ready to move to Australia, but in the end, “My mom says some days are like that. Even in Australia.” If Alexander’s mother is smart to offer casual sympathy without phoney consolation, Cruz and Viorst accord readers the same respect…”
[Review of Alexander and the terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day]. (September 1, 1972). Kirkus Reviews. Retrieved from http://www.kirkusreviews.com
Library uses: Oh this could be such a fun story time. I would love to have the kids make up their own stories about bad days, or invent further bad things that could happen to Alexander. At the end of the story time, we would tear up the bad things that happen and make art collages out of the paper. This would illustrate that bad days do come to an end eventually, and that you can make lemonade out of lemons. I’d even serve them lemonade, or send each kid home with a lemon as a reminder.