Traditional Thursdays: Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day

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We all have those days. The world seems set against us. No one understands us. Everything that could possibly go wrong goes wrong. Young or old, we can relate to Alexander’s frustration and desire to give up and move to Australia. This classic story follows Alexander through his day, listing everything that happens to make his day so terrible, from a missing toy in his cereal box to cavities at the dentist’s office. Author Judith Viorst essentially captures the egocentric perspective of childhood through Alexander’s matter-of-fact narration. Viorst’s direct writing makes it seem as though Alexander is speaking directly to readers, allowing us to sympathize with his troubles. Her use of run-on sentences further overwhelms the readers, just as Alexander feels overwhelmed by his day.

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Ray Cruz’s illustrations reflect Alexander’s point of view. While Alexander is the only figure in color, his surroundings and other characters remain in black-and-white, as gloomy as they must appear to him. The simple sketches do not distract from Alexander’s detailed expressions, which effectively convey his emotions.

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As he falls asleep to a broken night light, wearing his least favorite pajamas, Alexander remarks “It has been a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day. My mom says some days are like that. Even in Australia.” Closing her story without a positive resolution to Alexander’s day, Viorst poignantly reminds readers that sometimes we have bad days. And that is okay. This message is particularly important for young children learning to cope with situations that don’t go their way or to understand that some things are out of their control.

by Kathleen Stevens

 

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