Review – Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day – Children’s Book

One of the things I have been wanting to write is reviews for children’s books. I do my best to try and introduce my kids to a variety of books. I have always enjoyed reading myself, but as an adult, I have at best struggled to keep at it. I dont know why that is. Almost because of that struggle, I try and do a decent job of reading with the kids. Hopefully, they will stay with the habit for a long time to come.

As parents, I think, one of the biggest gifts we can give our children is to introduce them to ‘words’ …. and to lots of them – to help them express themselves. The more words you know, the better you can articulate your emotions, your  ideas, your situations. While being better articulated will help you get across a thought to the next person, it will also help you communicate with yourself better is what I have always believed.

Anyway, coming back to starting off writing reviews, this is November and in India, we celebrate children’s day on 14th Nov. I figured now is as good as it can get to start writing children book reviews. Here, I pick the first book – Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day  by Judith Viorst.

Chitra Aiyer - Alexander and the terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day

While this is a children’s book written for ages 5-9, it really is for everybody. It was first published in 1972, the story however is timeless.

“I went to sleep with gum in my mouth and now there’s gum in my hair and when I got out of bed this morning I tripped on the skateboard and by mistake I dropped my sweater in the sink while the water was running and I could tell it was going to be a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day.” is how the book starts. You can imagine how the rest of it is going to go. Everything in Alexander’s entire day goes horribly, horribly wrong – from not getting a window seat on the way to school to his teacher not liking his blank sheet of paper for artwork – which he calls the invisible castle, to being reduced to a 3rd best friend, to finding out he has a cavity while on a dentist’s chair, to getting hurt, pushed, being called a crybaby …. the list goes on. The day even ends badly with him getting to wear the pajama set that he hates and the family cat choosing to sleep with his brother! He is convinced about moving to Australia. The story ends with his mom telling him that things are going to pretty much be the same down under as well …. and that’s it.

I dont even need to teach this lesson to the kids, I can simply keep learning it over and over again myself :) … the reason why I think it is a great book for anybody. My 4+ year old doesnt really get the book. He just finds the events and the wordings funny. My 6+ year old daughter wasnt too sure she got it either, until we went over it a few times, drawing parallels with our own lives.

Judith Viorst has done well painting the picture of Alexander’s temperament, and Ray Cruz’s illustrations do complete justice too. My children prefer colorful illustrations, and here it is a black and white affair. However, I was able to get my older one to appreciate the detailed renderings of this book. 

My children are still too young for the funda of the story. However, they really liked the rhythmic repeat of the book’s title on every page and the funny turn of the sucky events.

This book has been adapted for TV and theatre. Read more about the book on Wiki.


Incidentally, the Bangalore Book Festival is starting this weekend – From Nov 6th at Palace Grounds.

19 Responses to “Review – Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day – Children’s Book”

  1. I’ve read this book – we weren’t too impressed with it then. We just read it once in the library/activity center. Perhaps the book sounded very adult-ish (and Americanised) to me. It totally went over my child’s head – will try again now. With more patience :)

  2. We’ve read this book quite a few times and it’s as funny as it is relevant once the parallels are drawn.

  3. Hey Chitra, I’ve actually never read the book but I did see the play done a few years ago at Seattle Children’s Theatre. It was quite good (everything there is).

  4. Poppy, your older one is still very young for this. I would think 7+ is probably a better age for this one. I like the book simply for its ‘in-the-face’ funda. Some fundas need to be delivered in the face is what I think. :)

    Rads, funny and relevant, yes. Welcome to the blog.

    Lufie, the book’s nice. I like it in totality. I think you will like it too. :)

  5. I totally agree with you on the importance of books and coincidentally my son’s school gave out a short note on the importance of reading.
    It began like this-
    So please,oh Please,we beg ,we pray,
    Go throw your TV set away,
    And in its place you can install,
    A lovely bookshelf on the wall.
    -Roald Dahl(Charlie and the Chocolate Factory)

  6. Hi Chitra,
    I’ve been following your blog for quite sometime now. We r2ied an year ago. Where do you usually buy these Children’s books in Bangalore?

  7. hi,
    At that age my kids loved reading the Arthur and DW series by Marc Brown. The could start with picture books and then move on to chapter books. Its is a fun read with the quirky members of Arthur’s family and friends esp his sister DW. Almost every book has a lesson for kids. The pictures are simple and colorful , my kids drew similar ones for their art projects. I am sure u could buy them online from the landmark store.

  8. Shilpa, cute. :) However, I do think a little TV is good – as long as we monitor their watch. I am not for TV for children less than 2 yrs. But there is a decent amount of good info there, as long as the parent knows how to regulate the watching.

    Pooja, all book stores carry decent amount of children’s book. Landmark is flooded. Then there are thrift stores where you can pick second hand books. There is also this book festival for 10 days every year. You will get loads of books there. Again, you get second books too at this festival.

    Kanchana, yes we enjoy Marc Brown books. And daughter gets Marc Brown from her school library too. Thanks. :)

  9. Just surround the kids with books of all kinds, at home and let the kids see you reading and enjoying it. And let them choose books once they can.

  10. Mumbai Paused, we do that. Have exposed the kids to many kinds since infancy. But now, we do more than that. I really look at what they have to gain from any book. I spend a decent bit of time looking up authors etc, coz we are at that stage now. While we still read everything in sight, I think doing more dedicated reading is good for us now.

  11. Reading was not so much fun till now for me. I see Ganesh’s curiosity in the colors, pictures and the illustrations. He would keep on looking at you, smiling and pointing to the item he likes :).
    I am thankful that I could start reading to him early in his life and feel lucky to have a sister like you who helped me achieve a broader vision.

  12. Oh I am glad you are reading for your little boy, Meenu. It is never too early. :)

  13. I totally agree your point about cultivating the habit of reading books when they are young and introducing them to new words. A neat review. I would like to read more like these.

  14. Thanks Amar. And sure, will keep writing. :)

  15. hehehe… as these americans ( say..
    yes as laidback i am.. lazy and enjoy doing nothing.. i started reading to him when he started sitting down… its fun though for the reasons already mentioned

  16. Seen this book Chitra and my older kid read it right away but we somehow did not borrow it – possibly because we already had other ones in the pile..

    Great review! Look forward to more such!

  17. Meenu, I am sure it is fun. That is all there is to it. :)

    Glad you liked the review, Chox. :)

  18. Try Good Night Moon. It got to the point where we had to say goodnight to EVERY single item. Of course my kids are much older now :-) and do their own reading. Though I should mention I read aloud interesting tidbits from the newspapers even now.

  19. Thanks My3 for the suggestion.

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