Like most parents, there are certain books I remember with special fondness from my children's younger days. Just thinking about them is enough to bring back warm memories of being curled up with one or both kids, reading through books we know so well we hardly need to look at the pages except to see the pictures.
Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day by Judith Viorst was one of those books. A copy was given to our son (whose shared his middle name with the hero) for his first birthday, and it became a family favorite. Small kids love repetition, and the Boy would laugh every time we launched into the litany of "Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day." Moreover, like most kids, he was fascinated by a hero who shared his name. (How many kids named Max have a extra shudder for Where the Wild Things Are? How many girls named Beth have been crushed when their namesake dies in Little Women? ) This is not one of the kids books that was tossed in the Goodwill bin when he started making room for more grown up stuff.
My son is hardly unique, however. This is a book that is loved and remembered by a lot of kids, (just look at all the grown children who use "terrible, horrible, no good etc" in news articles) and I think I know at least a few of the reasons.
One is the aforementioned repetition. Kids love it. Before they can read, they can recite, and they love books that use the same phrase over and over, because they can join in. When they work those phrases into their writing as they get older, its both a tip of the hat to everyone who gets the reference, and a warm and fuzzy evoking of childhood.
But even more that this, what kid doesn't identify with Alexander? Everything he tries to do all day goes wrong, and moreover he really has no one to blame but himself, because it's his own actions that go wrong. No wonder the poor guy wants to head for Australia. Kids think that whatever happened on a particular day is not only the worst thing that ever happened to them and the worst thing that ever will happen as well. (And I think grown kids may have some nostalgia for a time when gum in their hair, no desert in the lunch bag, and Lima beans for dinner were the biggest disasters ever.)
This year Alexander is going to be starring in a movie. I shudder at the idea, because the results of extending a children's picture book out to the demands of a full length film are generally atrocious, involving a lot of padding and back story that should be left to a child's imagination. (See the film version of The Cat in the Hat or better yet, perhaps the only movie I was ever tempted to walk out on in the theatre.)
The wonderful thing about movies of books however, is no matter how bad they are, the original book is still there waiting for us. Alexander's run of bad luck will no doubt entertain and console children for generations to come.
Because everyone has had a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day.
This post is part of the A-Z challenge. Each day, Monday to Saturday. I will post on a book beginning with a different letter of the alphabet. Click on the link below to learn more, or to read other alphabetical posts.