Customer Review

215 of 216 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Why I read this book to my boys, October 9, 2004
This review is from: Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day (Paperback)
The reviewers who criticize the main character's negative tone or run-on sentences, or the lack of a cutesy, make-it-all-better ending, are missing the point of this story. The "voice" of the book is precisely why we love it so much.

Alexander is a real boy--warts and all. When real kids are upset, they pour it all out in a rapid stream of words (and to heck with grammar!)--and of course, everything feels like the end of the world to them at that moment. Judith Viorst captures that very well.

We can relate because Alexander's life is like real life--lots of seemingly minor stressors can add up to one really rotten day; and because it isn't just one problem, there isn't a neat, tidy resolution at the end. In fact, in and of themselves, none of these things are really "problems"--just stuff you have to put up with sometimes. But when it all hits at once, it feels awful.

I think we've all had days like Alexander's: the alarm doesn't go off so you run out of the house late and with "bad hair," you spill coffee on your white blouse (or new tie) just before the big meeting with the boss, you snag your nylons (or lose a button), the pop machine in the breakroom eats your money, you end up having to work overtime, so when you get out to the car you find a parking ticket because you forgot to feed the meter, and then at home, dinner burns on the stove and the kids are fighting! So at the end of it all you collapse in a heap and momentarily consider running away--FAR away. Maybe even Australia! And (adding insult to injury) nobody else seems to care or empathize, because all of these things are just little petty annoyances. It's easy to forget that when one little thing hits you (like a pebble), it's nothing; but when a LOT of things (or pebbles) hit you, it's an avalanche!

On those days, there isn't much you can do but fall into bed and pray that tomorrow will be better--and that you'll laugh about it all later, too.

When an adult reads Alexander's story to a child, the adult can point out that none of the things happening to Alexander are really all that bad--things could definitely be worse; the child can suggest ways that Alexander might have been able to turn his day around; and, most of all, it's good to point out that, despite how grumpy he feels, Alexander still follows the rules and obeys directions (he puts on the jammies even though he hates them, etc.) and doesn't have a "meltdown" or a temper tantrum over it all (though he DOES get a little sour-faced and moody, and that can be talked about as well.)

When one of my kids is having a bad day, I'll often be able to lighten his mood by saying, "Are you having a terrible . . . HORRIBLE . . . . NOGOODVERYBADDAY??" (At my house, you have to start out slow and then get louder and faster--it always gets a laugh.) It also cheers up my sons to compare their plight to Alexander's--and find they are grateful that at least they didn't have to wear ugly jammies or eat lima beans for dinner that day.

There are other books we love more on good days--like "Where the Wild Things Are," or "Green Eggs & Ham." But on a NO-GOOD-VERY-BAD-DAY, this is the one we read--and it always makes us smile.
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Tracked by 4 customers

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Showing 1-7 of 7 posts in this discussion
Initial post: Jul 5, 2012 2:33:38 PM PDT
Thomas says:
While I agree with the sentiment that Viorst captures the passion children often exert when having a bad day or throwing a tantrum, I disagree that the grammatical sloppiness is necessary or beneficial for tapping into childish passion. I purchased this book for my niece at her mother's advice for a birthday present, and I can honestly say I'm embarrassed to be giving it to her (I may not after all) for fear she becomes yet another person who does not know how to compile complete, coherent sentences and thoughts using basic punctuation. Sure, my niece is a child and a long way away from writing a business letter, essay, or article, but this book is designed for children who can process more complex sentences and information, so why leave out the more complex punctuation? Humans learn by mimicry, and what better time to mimic correctly than from the start? If Viorst could separate "terrible, horrible, no good, and very bad day" with commas without harming her meaning, she could have done so with the rest of her sentences.

In reply to an earlier post on Apr 11, 2013 7:16:05 PM PDT
Krixee says:
I would argue that the lack of punctuation tends to act as character stage directions in a play; as an adult reading this aloud to a child, I would rush through in a way that mimics children's speech. Were I to read it with commas, I would probably pause and read it with more clarity, losing the tone of the actual book itself. The book can only be what it is through the tumbling narrative. Without it, the resolution of the story would not be as resonant.

I agree that children learn through models, but I will say that growing up on this book has done nothing to interfere with my use of punctuation. The art of the book is not just in the illustrations; it is also in the language, which is its own sort of poetry. While there are many forms of poetry, it is often imprecise and breaks the rules to create meaning. Thanks for making my childhood special by doing that, Judith Viorst!

Posted on May 11, 2014 6:51:30 PM PDT
CorgiMoon says:
the life 'lesson' of this book is more important than the language and grammar.

mom of 3, your children are very lucky to have you as a mom.

In reply to an earlier post on May 25, 2014 5:44:23 PM PDT
GT says:
It is true that "humans learn by mimicry" - but seriously, a book that takes ten minutes to read would hopefully not be the only interaction that children would have to mimic. As long as those other interactions are not Tweety Bird (very poor grammar and pronunciation as well) the children are probably safe and can learn proper grammar despite this book, which by the way, is a book about emotions, not grammar.

In reply to an earlier post on Nov 18, 2014 12:54:46 AM PST
Last edited by the author on Nov 18, 2014 12:57:08 AM PST
Pogue says:
If one book alone can make one fear that a child will be yet another who cannot punctuate properly, I feel badly for that person. It is the sum of experiences (other books, movies, parental guidance, formal education, etc.) that teach a child lessons they can carry into adulthood. And since children have much to learn about many things, a book -- even one without proper punctuation -- about handling emotions and coping with the myriad of difficulties life brings is as useful as (if not more so) every grammar lesson he or she will ever learn.

In reply to an earlier post on Jan 16, 2015 3:47:43 AM PST
very well put. Agree on everything you said.

Posted on Feb 16, 2015 1:02:18 AM PST
StacyG says:
My mother is a retired 2nd grade teacher, and this was one of the books she read to her students year after year. Every one of her classes loved this book. After she retired, she passed on some of her favorite story-time books to my 3-year old. I read this book to her quite often at bed-time; always at her request.
I understand what other reviewers have stated in their comments about improper grammar, but I think they are missing the point. The author wrote the book from a child's perspective, not an adult's. The words on the pages are Alexander's thoughts, playing out in his head as each event unfolds throughout his day. I honestly think this was very clever of the author to do. I think it shows that she had a great sense of audience and voice as she wrote the story. People may disagree with me, and I completely respect that. My only suggestion would be to give the book another chance, read it again, and try to see it through the eyes of a child. I think then the grammar might not matter as much as the actual content of the book.
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