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

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Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day
Author Judith Viorst
Illustrator Ray Cruz
Country United States
Language English
Genre Children's
Publication date
June 16, 1972
Pages 32
ISBN 0-689-30072-7

Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day, published in 1972, is an 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 two sequels, Alexander, Who Used to be Rich Last Sunday ISBN 978-0-689-30602-0, and Alexander, Who's Not (Do You Hear Me? I Mean It!) Going to Move ISBN 0-689-31958-4.


From the moment Alexander wakes up, things just do not go his way. As he gets up, the chewing gum that was in his mouth the night before ends up in his hair, he trips on the skateboard and drops his sweater in the sink while the water is running. His brothers Nick and Anthony find prizes in their breakfast cereals at breakfast time, while Alexander does not.

In the carpool on the way to school, he doesn't get a window seat. At school, his teacher, Mrs. Dickens, discourages his picture of the invisible castle (which is actually just a blank sheet of paper), criticizes him for singing too loud and incorrectly, and publicly scolds him for skipping the number 16 at counting time. Alexander says Paul wasn't his best friend anymore. So his best friend Paul deserts him for Phillip Parker and Albert Moyo, and says Alexander therefore is his third best friend. At lunch, Phillip has two cupcakes with lemon icing for dessert, Albert has a Hershey bar with almonds, and Paul has a jelly roll with coconut sprinkles. But since Alexander's mother had forgot to put in dessert, there is no dessert in his lunch bag. The dentist tells him he has a cavity and that he has to come back next week so it can be fixed; the elevator door closes on his foot; Anthony pushes him into a mud puddle; Alexander cries because of the mud and Nick says he is a crybaby; he punches Nick in response, and their mother comes back with the car and punishes him for being muddy and fighting Nick.

At the shoe store, Alexander wanted blue shoes with red stripes, but they're out of Alexander's choice of sneakers, so his mother has to buy him plain white ones, which he refuses to wear. At his father's office, he makes a mess of things when he fools around with everything there (the copying machine, the books, and the telephone), so the father gets to the point where he (the father) tells the family not to pick him up anymore.

At home, they have lima beans for dinner (which he hates); there is kissing on TV (which he also hates); bath-time is awful (the water being too hot, getting soap in his eyes, and his marble going down the drain); and he's forced to wear his railroad train pajamas (which he also hates). At bedtime, his nightlight burns out; he bites his tongue; Nick takes back a bed pillow he said Alexander could keep; and the cat chooses to sleep with Anthony.

A running gag throughout the book is Alexander repeating several times that he wants to move to Australia because he thinks it's better there.[1] It ends with his mother's assurance that everybody has bad days, even those who live there.[1] In the Australian and New Zealand versions, he wants to move to Timbuktu instead. Alexander says tomorrow things cannot get any worse.

TV adaptation[edit]

On Saturday, January 13th, 1990, the book was adapted into a 30-minute animated musical television special that aired on HBO and Klasky Csupo in the United States.

While the special is mostly true to the book, there are eleven differences:

  • Aside from the running gag of Alexander making references to Australia, the producers added another running gag in the special: he searches everywhere for his favorite yo-yo, a purple glow-in-the-dark one.
  • Dad has no mustache and has auburn hair instead of blonde like he had in the book.
  • Nick has blonde hair instead of auburn and wears glasses.
  • Anthony has auburn hair instead of blonde.
  • The cat, unnamed in the book, is named Timothy.
  • The boy who gets cupcakes is white in the special, but is black and wears glasses in the book.
  • The boy who gets a chocolate bar is black in the special, but is white in the book.
  • This special features 10 more bad things for Alexander:
    • He opens a drawer too far, making it land on his right foot.
    • He spills cereal on the floor while searching for a free prize.
    • He falls off of the seat when the carpool stops by his school.
    • His friends refuse to let him play Monkey in the Middle.
    • He sings "roll" and "Mary Lee" while his class sings "Row, Row, Row Your Boat".
    • His friends tease him multiple times when he pretends to draw a picture, sings his song loudly and incorrectly, skips the number 16, gets no dessert, and explains why he refuses to play ball with them after school.
    • His friends close the doors on him after school.
    • He was forced by the dentist, Dr. Fields, to sit still for 30 seconds for messing around with the toothpaste, dental chair, and tray.
    • The shoe salesman turns down his alternate choice of sneakers (green ones).
    • He is forced by his father to sit on the couch for a timeout for playing with the copying machine and knocking the books off his father's desk.
  • The special also includes three good things to show the audience that even a bad day can have something good in it:
    • Anthony and Nick make up for what they did to Alexander while waiting for their mom to pick up the car.
    • Mom finds Alexander's favorite yo-yo in the closet while turning off the bedroom light.
    • Before the end credits, Timothy (the cat) changes his mind and sleeps with Alexander while talking about how Mom says everybody has bad days, even in Australia.
  • Although mentioned, the three following bad things are not shown in the special:
    • The family has lima beans for dinner.
    • Alexander watches kissing on TV.
    • Alexander's bath makes the evening worse.
  • 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"




  • HBO Presents
  • Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day
  • Screenplay and Lyrics by: Judith Viorst
  • Music by: Charles Strouse
  • Based On A Book by: Judith Viorst
  • Directed by: Allen Foster
  • Executive Producer: Gábor Csupó
  • Produced by: Bee Beckman and Tim Bloch
  • Additional Music & Arrangements by: Joel Silberman and Larry Hochman
  • Cast: Daniel Tamberelli, Devon Michaels, Joey Rigel, Linda Wallem, Steve Barton, Stephanie Maddin, William Bogert, Skip Hinnant, Todd Detreitas, Ashley Carin, Erin Torpey, Buddy Smith, Daniel Riefsnyder, Z. Wright
  • Casting by: Helen Taylor
  • Character Models by: Allen Foster
  • Based On Book Illustrations by: Ray Cruz
  • Production Manager: David S. Eccles
  • Animators: Jeff McGrath, Ron Myrick, Gabriella Payn, Kelly Spencer, Vicente Bassols
  • Background Designs: Enzo Baldi, Gary Mouri, Alvero Ance
  • Color Designs by: Gyorgyi Peluce
  • Overseas Animation Production by: Pion Animation
  • Overseas Animation: Kim Tayk, Park Joon Nam, Lee Jong An, Park Seang Jin, Han Myung Kook, Choi Hee Seok
  • Overseas Animation Assistant: Lee Kee Doo
  • Overseas Xerox: Jee Hee Joo
  • Overseas Painting: Choi Sun Young
  • Overseas Backgrounds: Lee Gun Ho
  • Overseas Camera: Lee Sung Woo
  • Overseas Production Manager: Sammy Kim
  • Overseas Coordinator: George Nakano
  • Production Controller: Robert Cseko
  • Production Accountant: Liz Mesrobian
  • Post Production Audio: Scott Weber
  • Negative Cutter: D&A Film Cutting, Inc.
  • Main Title Camera: Laszlo Lakits and William J. Hedge
  • Film To Tape Transfer: Action Video
  • © 1990 Home Box Office
  • All Rights Reserved
  • A Klasky Csupo Production
  • This Has Been An HBO Presentation


In 1998, Viorst and the Kennedy Center joined together to turn the book into a musical production.[1][3] Charles Strouse wrote the music, Viorst wrote the script and lyrics, and the musical score was composed by Shelly Markham.[3] The productions have been performed around the country.[1][4]

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

In 2004, a stage adaptation was run at the B Street Theatre.


In 2011, it was reported that 20th Century Fox had plans to make a live action film adaptation of the book.[5] Written by Lisa Cholodenko and Rob Lieber, it was set to be directed by Cholodenko, and produced by Shawn Levy with Dan Levine for Levy's 21 Laps, and Lisa Henson with Jason Lust for The Jim Henson Company.[5] Steve Carell has joined in April 2012, to star as Ben, Alexander's dad.[6] In October 2012, Walt Disney Pictures picked up the project,[7] reportedly due to Fox being "uncomfortable with the budget."[8] In February 2013, Deadline reported that Cholodenko has left the project,[9] and a month later, that Miguel Arteta was in talks with Disney to replace Cholodenko.[10] In April 2013, Jennifer Garner was in talks to play Kelly, Alexander's mom.[11] In June 2013, The Walt Disney Studios set the release date for October 10, 2014, and confirmed that Carell and Garner played Alexander's parents.[12] The same month, Disney cast Ed Oxenbould as Alexander.[13] Bella Thorne played Alexander's older brother's girlfriend.[14]


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.[15]

Cultural references[edit]

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. The phrase is also used in the Stephen King miniseries Kingdom Hospital by the orderlies Abel and Christa. [16][17][18]


  1. ^ a b c d e The Kennedy Center (2007). "Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day". The Kennedy Center. Retrieved December 22, 2007. 
  2. ^ Scott Bernarde (2007). "I resolve to forget fishing in 2007". Atlanta Journal Constitution. Retrieved December 22, 2007. 
  3. ^ a b Laurel Graeber (October 24, 2003). "Just One Of Those Days". The New York Times. Retrieved December 22, 2007. 
  4. ^ Hispania News (2006). "Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day". Hispania News. Retrieved December 22, 2007. 
  5. ^ a b Sneider, Jeff (May 3, 2011). "Cholodenko in talks for Fox's Alexander". Variety. Retrieved October 22, 2012. 
  6. ^ Flemink, Mike (April 9, 2012). "Steve Carell Circling Alexander And The Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day". Deadline. Retrieved October 22, 2012. 
  7. ^ Fleming, Mike (October 20, 2012). "Disney Picks Up Alexander And The Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day". Deadline. Retrieved October 22, 2012. 
  8. ^ Fleming, Mike (September 27, 2012). "Fox Puts In Turnaround Steve Carell-Starrer Alexander And The Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day". Deadline. Retrieved October 22, 2012. 
  9. ^ Fleming, Mike (February 22, 2013). "Lisa Cholodenko Exits 'Alexander And The Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day'". Deadline. Retrieved February 22, 2013. 
  10. ^ Fleming, Mike (March 13, 2013). "Miguel Arteta Will Helm Disney's 'Alexander And The Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day' With Steve Carell". Deadline. Retrieved June 14, 2013. 
  11. ^ Flemink, Mike (April 25, 2013). "Jennifer Garner Joining Steve Carell In 'Alexander And The No Good, Very Bad Day'". Deadline. Retrieved April 25, 2012. 
  12. ^ "More Disney Release Dates: Two New Marvel Pics, 'Alexander', 'Hundred-Foot Journey', 'Into The Woods', 'Planes' Sequel Slotted". Deadline. June 13, 2013. Retrieved June 14, 2013. 
  13. ^ Fleming Jr., Mike (June 24, 2013). "Disney Finds Title Character Of 'Alexander And The Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day'". Deadline. Retrieved June 25, 2013. 
  14. ^ Kit, Borys (July 31, 2013). "Disney Channel Star Joins 'Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day' (Exclusive)". The Hollywood Rerporter. Retrieved August 2, 2013. 
  15. ^ Mary-Liz Shaw (2007). "Grandmother learns lesson in flexibility". Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. Archived from the original on May 31, 2008. Retrieved December 22, 2007. 
  16. ^
  17. ^ Patrick Gavin (2013-05-16). "Obama's week? 'Horrible, no good'". Retrieved 2013-05-16. 
  18. ^ "Political Commentary and Opinion - Washington Examiner". Washington Examiner. 

External links[edit][dead link]