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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