Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day

Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day
Judith Viorst
Ill. by Ray Cruz
Atheneum Books for Young Readers, 1972
ISBN 0-689-30072-7

Judith Voirst’s authentic portrayal of the young and cranky Alexander quickly charms readers.  It easy to relate to his day, and each turn of the page leaves you (and Alexander) guessing about what could possibly go wrong next.  One annoyance after the next leaves our young Alexander so terribly angry that he is ready end it all and move to Australia.  Unlike other predictable children's books, this one does not include a perfect ending.  Alexander’s issues build and no one seems to care.  In the end his mom lets him know that “some days are like that.”  As he is drifting off to sleep he realizes that terrible, horrible, no good, very bad days can even happen in Australia.

Critical Analysis
The characters of Alexander and he Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day play realistic roles.  Voirst’s cool writing style is portrayed by the common actions and responses of Alexander’s mother.  The message of the story is simple, and children and adults are reminded that there are good days and bad days for everyone.  The illustrator, Ray Cruz, captures Alexander’s troubled pouts perfectly.  The lackadaisical responses to his pouts (and even tantrums) from the other characters teach children that it is okay to be in a bad mood every once in a while, but the world keeps on turning.  There are better days ahead and there are bad days everywhere, even in Australia. 

Georgia Book Award (1977)
SMART Book Award Nominee (2005)
ALA Notable Book


"Ray Cruz's black-and-white line drawings lend themselves well to the story's mood. Cruz has an undeniable knack for realism, and he captures Alexander's emotions wonderfully." -By Mary LeCompte of Disney

"This book scores high on the reality meter; just about any school-age child has had at least one terrible, horrible day. As a bedtime read for any kid who has just had one of those days, this one's a winner--it's almost guaranteed to chase away the blues." - Common Sense Review

"Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day is a great antidote to bad days everywhere, sure to put a smile on even the crabbiest of faces."  -Amazon Editorial Review


Children can free write in a journal about their "very bad day."  Afterwards they can make a decision map about their choices and how they can cope with days like that in the future.  

Have students act out "bad day" situations and focus on facial expression.  Demonstrate the effects of smiling verses pouting with mini-skits.  

Children can read other books which deal with frustration and anger management.  Casey Mahaffey of Franklin College lists some related books:  
  • Piper, Watty. The Little Engine That Could. New York: Platt and Munk Publishers, 1976. 
  • Everitt, Betsy. Mean Soup. Singapore: Tien Wah Press, 1992. 
  • Bang, Molly. When Sophie Gets Angry – Really, Really Angry.... New York: The Blue Sky Press,1999.
  • Moser, Adloph and David Melton. Don’t Rant and Rave on Wednesdays!: The Children’s AngerControl Book. New York: Landmark Editions Inc., 1994. 
  • Verdick, Elizabeth and Majorie Lisovskis. How to Take the Grrrr out of Anger. New York: Free Spirit Publishing, 2002. 
  • Loomans, Diane. Today I Am Lovable: 365 Positive Activities for Kids. Tiburon, CA: H.J. Kramer
Franklin College (Novemeber/December 2004)

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