Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day

This book has been one of my lifelong favorites— in a world like childhood, where every moment is supposed to be magical and picture-perfect, a story about a kid having an honest-to-goodness rotten day, partly because of his own bad attitude/behavior, is a breath of fresh air. (And don’t get me wrong— I know I’m about as Pollyanna as they come.)

When I saw they were going to make a movie of it, I was cautiously optimistic. I’m a Jennifer Garner fan, I usually find Steve Carrell funny. But it’s a story that takes less than five minutes to read, so… a full-length feature? Are we sure?

After a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad weekend of my own, (or maybe just a weekend in which Pollyanna couldn’t pull back her own bad attitude), I ducked into a matinee as part of an effort to avoid interacting with other living beings.

Without an effort to give too much in the way of spoilers, I’d have to say that it helped me to turn the day around. They used Alexander’s bad day as a jumping-off point, not as a focal point, and they focused on building up the characters he interacts with on his bad day. It was a smart way to go, and I thought they kept the spirit of the story without letting it limit them. Possibly not “beloved classic for the ages” territory, but

Here are a couple of other books I like because of the way they let kids be grumpy and have bad days.

  • Where the Wild Things Are: Best use of a “sent to bed without supper” ever!
  • Pretty much anything by Roald Dahl. Charlie of my favorite Charlie and the Chocolate Factory is good as gold, but the horrible other golden-ticket winners and the grandparents (Grandpa Joe excepted) strangely odd— it felt like Dahl really understood what it was like to be a kid. But James and the Giant Peach, Matilda… Hard to argue with any of ’em.
  • I think you can even make an argument for some of my other favorites, Charlotte’s Web and Anne of Green Gables— Fern Bucket is no rule-follower— stubborn as the day is long, and Anne is audacious and opinionated in ways that were scandalous in her society from a young lady.

What are your favorite “sometimes life sucks, even when you’re a kid” books?


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