Study Guide

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

By Judith Viorst


I could tell it was going to be a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day (1)

Children are pretty good at exaggerating, and since they don't have fancy words like "atrocious," "abominable," or "grievous," a long list of okay words is gonna have to do. There's another thing here, too: the sense of doom, the decision to be upset before the day has really begun—it's a telltale sign of the rigid thinking of a young child.

Or a politician.

[Illustration page 1: Alexander's room]

Alexander's room shows some obvious signs of little-kid-ness. Sure, he may talk a big game with his long narrative and pseudo self-awareness, but from the very beginning, we know he's a teddy-bear-snuggling, toy-train-playing, drum-banging little kid.

I hope you sit on a tack, I said to Paul. I hope the next time you get a double-decker strawberry ice-cream cone the ice cream part falls off the cone part and lands in Australia (9)

Kid Logic. That's the best word for it. How else could the ice cream make it all the way down under?

They made me buy plain old white ones, but they can't make me wear them (19)

Kids don't have control over much. We like to (crassly) say: you can't make 'em eat, sleep, or poop. In this case, the shoes aren't involved in any of those three (we hope!) but Alexander can still engage in a little peaceful protest.

[…] he said I couldn't play with his copying machine, but I forgot. He also said to watch out for the books on his desk, and I was as careful as could be except for my elbow (p. 20)

Alexander likes to avoid responsibility quite a lot in this book. At his dad's office, his little-kid control (or lack thereof) is in full force. Distracted by the lure of a copy machine (only kids can think copy machines are cool), he completely forgets the clear limit of being careful. And in true child form, he doesn't really have a whole lot of control over his physical movements.

There was kissing on TV and I hate kissing (23)

Who doesn't?