Alexander and the Terrible,
Horrible, No Good,
Very Bad Day
written by Judith Viorst
illustrated by Ray Cruz

Judith Viorst's Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day
Illustrated by Ray Cruz

Children's book review by Steve Barancik

Ages 4-8

Capturing Crankiness

I feel safe in assuming that in the early 1970s Judith Viorst had children, they were boys, and that she was taking notes.

Whatever could go wrong for a five year old boy does in Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible...well, you know the title.

  • Gum in the hair
  • No prize in the cereal
  • Bad seat in the car
  • Unappreciated by teacher
  • Demoted from best friend status
  • No dessert in lunch bag
  • Only sibling with cavity
  • Unfairly blamed by Mom
  • Fairly blamed by Dad
  • Shoe store out of favorite style in his size
  • Lima beans at dinner
  • Kissing on TV
  • Soap in the eyes

You get the idea. Of course, some of Alexander's problems are of his own making. Waking up he trips on his skateboard, but illustrator Ray Cruz makes it very clear that Alexander has left other stuff out to trip on when he gets up tomorrow.

And Alexander does seem like possibly a bit of a problem child. In any crowd, he's the one with the unruliest hair. He looks to be younger than his siblings, and that's tough too.

You see, the universality of Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day lies in the absolute normality of everything that goes wrong. Viorst captures a day on which, perhaps, more things go wrong for Alexander than usual, but also a day on which Alexander is more than prepared to look at everything that happens through a "glass half empty" filter.

Review continues below.

color added, text shifted, from Alexander and the Terrible Horrible No Good Very Bad Day

He suspects things are better in Australia (a running gag), but - to his credit - he's singled this day out as pretty much the worst day possible. That means he realizes that most days are better, and his mom assures him that everyone has days like this...

Even in Australia.

Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day remains a very popular book today, no doubt because kids still have bad days. Cranky, pouty, pilly, grouchy, missed your nap days.

And parents are still helping them try to get through it!

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