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

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Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day
AuthorJudith Viorst
IllustratorRay Cruz
CountryUnited States
GenreChildren's picture book
PublisherAtheneum Books
Publication date
June 16, 1972

Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day is a 1972 ALA Notable Children's Book written by Judith Viorst and illustrated by Ray Cruz.[1][2] It has also won a George G. Stone Center Recognition of Merit, a Georgia Children's Book Award, and is a Reading Rainbow book. Viorst followed this book up with three sequels, Alexander, Who Used to be Rich Last Sunday,[3] Alexander, Who's Not (Do You Hear Me? I Mean It!) Going to Move,[4] and Alexander, Who's Trying His Best to Be the Best Boy Ever.[5]


Alexander narrates the story of having a terrible, horrible, no good very bad day. From the moment Alexander woke up, he noticed the bubble gum that was in his mouth when he fell asleep had now gotten stuck in his hair. Then, when he got out of bed, he tripped on his skateboard. In the bathroom, he accidentally dropped his favorite sweater into the sink while the water was on. At breakfast, his brothers, Anthony and Nick, find prizes in their breakfast cereal boxes, but Alexander only finds cereal in his box and no prize at all. Alexander resolves that he is going to move away to Australia.

In the carpool on the way to school, Alexander has to sit in the middle between two other kids in the back. He complains about how uncomfortable he is and that he will get carsick unless he gets to sit at the window, but no one listens. At school, his teacher Mrs. Dickens disqualifies Alexander's picture of the "invisible castle," which is just a blank sheet of paper, preferring Paul's picture of a sailboat. At singing time, she criticizes Alexander for singing too loud and at counting time, she mentions that he has skipped “16” when the class counted from 1 to 20. After being told, he retorts that no one needs "16" and again laments how bad his day is.

At recess, Paul tells him that he is no longer his best friend and will only play with him occasionally now. Paul has decided to choose Phillip as his first best friend and Albert his second best friend, therefore Alexander has been brought down to third best. Alexander's response is that he hopes Paul sits on a tack and when he gets an ice cream cone, the ice cream will fall off and land somewhere in Australia. Then at lunchtime, all of the boys show off their desserts, except for Alexander. Respectively, there are two cupcakes for Phillip’s dessert, a chocolate bar with almonds for Albert, and Paul has a jelly roll with coconut sprinkles. But since Alexander's mother forgot to include one, there is no dessert with his lunch. Once again, Alexander laments having a "terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day".

After school, Alexander's mother takes him and his brothers to the dentist. At the appointment, the dentist, Dr. Fields finds Alexander is the only one with a cavity. Dr. Fields announces that he will call Alexander in next week and fix it, to which Alexander repeats his plan about moving to Australia for good. Alexander then recalls other bad things on the way back to the car. First the elevator door closed on his foot and outside Anthony pushed Alexander into a mud puddle. Then, as Alexander cried, Nick called him a "cry baby". Finally, when started Alexander hitting his brother for calling him names, his mother scolded him for getting dirty and starting a fight.

At the shoe store, Alexander wants blue sneakers with red stripes, but they are sold out, so his mother buys him plain white shoes, which are the only shoes available in his size. Alexander states that the store may sell them to him but he refuses to wear them. When his family comes to pick up his father at the office, Alexander gets in trouble for making a mess and playing with the following things in the office: the copy machine, the stack of books, and the telephone (which he wanted to use to call Australia). This culminates in the father asking the family not to pick him up anymore.

That night, the family has lima beans for dinner which Alexander hates; he also hates seeing kissing on TV. During Alexander's bath, the water is too hot, he gets soap in his eyes, his marble is lost in the drain, and then he is forced to wear his "railroad-train" pajamas which he hates as well. Lastly at bedtime, his nightlight burns out, he bites his tongue, Nick has taken back a pillow he said Alexander could keep and the cat decides not to sleep with Alexander, but with Anthony.

The running gag throughout the book is Alexander saying that he wants to move to Australia because he thinks it is better there.[6] His mother reassures him that everybody has bad days, even those who live in Australia. While the American version of this book has Alexander say he wants to move to Australia, the Australian and New Zealand versions has him say he wants to move to Timbuktu instead.

TV adaptation[edit]

On September 15, 1990, the book was adapted into a thirty-minute animated musical television special that was produced by Klasky Csupo and aired on HBO in the United States. Along with some alterations to the designs of the supporting characters, along with the cat's name being Timothy, and additions to the plot, most notably Alexander searching for his lost yo-yo throughout, the special also included three original songs:

  • "So much to do, so little time in the morning"
  • "If I could be the only child"
  • "I've had a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day"


  • Danny Tamberelli as Alexander (speaking voice)
    • Todd Defreitas as Alexander (singing voice)
  • Joey Rigol as Nick
  • Devon Michaels as Anthony
  • Linda Wallem as Mom
  • Steve Barton as Dad
  • Stephanie Maddin as Mrs. Dickens
  • William Bogert as Dr. Fields
  • Skip Hinnant as Shoe Salesman
  • Ashley Carin as Girl #1
  • Erin Torpey as Girl #2
  • Buddy Smith as Paul
  • Daniel Riefsnyder as Phillip
  • Z. Wright as Albert

Other media[edit]

In 1998, Viorst and the Kennedy Center joined together to turn the book into a musical production.[6][7] Charles Strouse wrote the music, Viorst wrote the script and lyrics, and the musical score was composed by Shelly Markham.[7] The productions have been performed around the country.[6][8]

Other characters in it are Audrey, Becky, and many others.

In 2004, a stage adaptation was run at the B Street Theatre, but never actually happened.

A Disney live-action film adaptation with not much involvement from the book was released in 2014 and another version is being developed for Disney+.[9]


Alexander and his two older brothers, Anthony and Nick, are based on Viorst's own three sons of the same names. But the film changed Nick to Emily, replacing the brother with a sister, and adds Trevor as well.[10]


The phrase "terrible, horrible, no good, very bad . . ." has become an Internet meme, often used by bloggers, and sometimes by mainstream media, to criticize, or characterize setbacks for, an individual or political movement.[11][12][13] The title is also used in the A-O-K song by Tai Verdes.


  1. ^ Viorst, Judith (June 1, 1972). Alexander and the terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day (First ed.). Anthenum Books. ISBN 978-0689300721.
  2. ^ Scott Bernarde (2007). "I resolve to forget fishing in 2007". Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Archived from the original on 2007-12-25. Retrieved December 22, 2007.
  3. ^ Viorst, Judith (February 1978). Alexander, who used to be rich last Sunday (first ed.). Atheneum Books. ISBN 978-0-689-30602-0.
  4. ^ Viorst, Judith (October 1995). Alexander, who's not (Do you hear me? I mean it!) Going to move (1st ed.). Antheneum Books. ISBN 0-689-31958-4.
  5. ^ Viorst, Judith (26 August 2014). Alexander, who's trying his best to be the best boy ever (First ed.). Antheneum Books. ISBN 978-1-48142353-3.
  6. ^ a b c The Kennedy Center (2007). "Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day". The Kennedy Center. Archived from the original on 2007-12-21. Retrieved December 22, 2007.
  7. ^ a b Laurel Graeber (October 24, 2003). "Just One Of Those Days". The New York Times. Archived from the original on 2008-05-31. Retrieved December 22, 2007.
  8. ^ Hispania News (2006). "Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day". Hispania News. Archived from the original on 2008-05-31. Retrieved December 22, 2007.
  9. ^ Krol, Justin (December 8, 2020). "Disney Rebooting 'Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day' With Matt Lopez Penning The Script". Deadline. Retrieved December 8, 2020.
  10. ^ Mary-Liz Shaw (2007). "Grandmother learns lesson in flexibility". Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. Archived from the original on May 31, 2008. Retrieved December 22, 2007.
  11. ^ "Dick Cheney's Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day". 3 May 2010. Archived from the original on 2010-09-03. Retrieved 2010-08-05.
  12. ^ Patrick Gavin (2013-05-16). "Obama's week? 'Horrible, no good'". Archived from the original on 2013-05-22. Retrieved 2013-05-16.
  13. ^ "Political Commentary and Opinion - Washington Examiner". Washington Examiner.[permanent dead link]