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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
GenreChildren's picture book
PublisherAtheneum Books
Publication date
June 16, 1972
Publication placeUnited States

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]


From the moment he wakes up, nothing goes Alexander's way. He went to sleep with gum in his mouth and awakens to find gum in his hair, trips on his skateboard while getting out of bed, and drops his sweater in the bathroom sink while the water is running. At breakfast, Alexander's older brothers, Anthony and Nick, find prizes in their cereal boxes, while he does not. In the carpool on the way to school, Alexander does not get a window seat.

At school, Alexander's picture of an "invisible castle" (really just a blank sheet of paper) is met with disapproval from his teacher, Mrs. Dickens. She also criticizes him for singing too loudly and skipping the number 16 at counting time. Later, Alexander's best friend, Paul, says that Alexander is his third best friend, and Alexander finds that his mother forgot to put dessert in his lunch bag at lunch.

After school, Alexander's mother takes him, Anthony, and Nick to the dentist, where a cavity is discovered in Alexander's mouth. On the way downstairs, the elevator door closes on Alexander's foot and while he and his brothers are waiting for their mom to get the car, Anthony makes Alexander fall in a mud puddle, and then Nick calls Alexander a “crybaby” when Alexander begins crying because of the mud. While Alexander is punching Nick for calling him “crybaby”, their mother comes back with the car and scolds Alexander for being muddy and for fighting. Afterwards, they go the shoe store, where Alexander is begrudgingly made to buy plain white sneakers. When the family goes to collect Alexander's father from his office, the father is upset with Alexander's misbehavior and requests that they no longer pick him up.

At home, the family has lima beans for dinner, which Alexander hates, and there is kissing on television, which he also hates. Things continue to go badly for Alexander as his bath is too hot, he gets soap in his eyes, his marble goes down the drain, and he has to wear his train-patterned pajamas (which he hates). At bedtime, Nick takes back a pillow he said that Alexander could keep, Alexander's Mickey Mouse night light burns out, he bites his tongue, and the family cat chooses to sleep with Anthony.

Throughout the book, there is a running gag where Alexander expresses his longing to move to Australia, believing that life is better there. His mother points out that even people in Australia have bad days. In the Australian and New Zealand editions of the book, he wants to move to Timbuktu instead.

Other media[edit]

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"


  • Daniel 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 the Shoe Salesman
  • Ashley Carin as Girl #1
  • Erin Torpey as Girl #2
  • Buddy Smith as Paul
  • Daniel Riefsnyder as Phillip Parker
  • Z. Wright as Albert Moyo


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 United States.[6][8] Other characters in the musical were Audrey, Becky, and many others.

Film adaptation[edit]

A Disney live-action film loosely-based on the book was released in 2014.[9] In 2020, it was reported that another film version titled Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Road Trip was being developed for Disney+.[10]


Alexander and his two older brothers, Anthony and Nick, are based on Viorst's own three sons of the same names. However, for unknown reasons, the film changed Nick to Emily, replacing the older brother with an older sister, and adds Trevor as the younger brother as well.[11]


  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 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. ^ "More Disney Release Dates: Two New Marvel Pics, 'Alexander', 'Hundred-Foot Journey', 'Into The Woods', 'Planes' Sequel Slotted". Deadline Hollywood. June 13, 2013. Retrieved June 14, 2013.
  10. ^ 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.
  11. ^ Mary-Liz Shaw (2007). "Grandmother learns lesson in flexibility". Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. Archived from the original on May 31, 2008. Retrieved December 22, 2007.