Module 2 Classic Children’s and Young Adult Literature
Alexander and the Terrible Horrible No Good Very Bad Day
by Judy Viorst and illustrated by Ray Cruz
Alexander stumbles from one bad event to another all day long. He is the only kid without a cereal prize, a window seat on the way to school, and a dessert for lunch. He is picked on and blamed for fights. Alexander simply cannot turn the day around.
Viorst, J. (1972). Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day. New York: Antheneum Books.
My Impressions of the Book
We’ve all had bad days. Days when nothing seems to go right and our feelings overwhelm us when it’s all too much. Children and adults alike can relate to Alexander’s emotional state. Alexander’s mother tries to reassure him with the knowledge that some days don’t go our way. This book allows readers to relax and laugh at the things that frustrated Alexander. It’s comforting to know that everyone experiences these days and each new day may be a brighter, happier day.
Alexander's day may be awful for him, but it is pure enjoyment for 5- to 9-year-olds. ALEXANDER AND THE TERRIBLE, HORRIBLE, NO GOOD, VERY BAD DAY scores high on the reality meter; just about any school-age child has had at least one terrible, horrible day. As a bedtime read for any kid who has just had one of those days, this one's a winner--it's almost guaranteed to chase away the blues. When it was read to a group of 5- and 6-year-olds, it was hard to tell who was having more fun, the adult reader or the audience of giggling kids.
The plot, though simple, presents an interesting take on everyday childhood problems. The text is written in a conversational style from the viewpoint of a young boy, so it's by far more entertainment than English lesson. Ray Cruz's black-and-white line drawings lend themselves well to the story's mood. Cruz has an undeniable knack for realism, and he captures Alexander's emotions wonderfully.
LeCompte, M. (2013). Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day. [Review of the book Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day by J. Viorst]. Common Sense Media, Retrieved from http://www.commonsensemedia.org/book- reviews/alexander-and-the-terrible-horrible-no-good-very-bad-day
Ideas for Library Use
Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day could be used to help children understand and express their feelings.
Are You There, God, It’s Me, Margaret
by Judy Bloom
Margaret finds herself questioning aspects of her life after she moves to the suburbs. Margaret and her friends form a club and discuss topics like boys, periods, and religion. She is very curious about religion because she has a Jewish father and a Christian mother, but no religion of her own.
Blume, J. (1970). Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret. New York: Random House.
My Impressions of the Book
The novel is open and honest with each subject Judy Blume tackles. It is refreshing to see a young character strive to find her place in the world as she opens her heart to both Christianity and Judaism. Margaret looks for the positive in life rather than focusing on the heartache that has been created by her maternal grandparents. These challenging moments are lightened by the humorous banter between friends and the all important conversations of preteen girls.
In her June/July 1999 American Libraries article “Places I Never Meant to Be: A Personal View”, Ms. Blume says of writing this story, “I wrote Are You There God ? It’s Me, Margaret right out of my own experiences and feelings when I was in 6th grade. Controversy wasn’t on my mind. I wanted only to write what I knew to be true. I wanted to write the best, the most honest books I could, the kinds of books I would have liked to read when I was younger. If someone had told me then I would become one of the most banned writers in America, I’d have laughed.”
The synopsis from the publisher reads, “No one ever told Margaret Simon that eleven-going-on- twelve would be such a hard age. When her family moves to New Jersey, she has to adjust to life in the suburbs, a different school, and a whole new group of friends. Margaret knows she needs someone to talk to about growing up-and it’s not long before she’s found a solution. ‘Are you there God? It’s me, Margaret. I can’t wait until two o’clock God. That’s when our dance starts. Do you think I’ll get Philip Leroy for a partner? It’s not so much that I like him as a person God, but as a boy he’s very handsome. And I’d love to dance with him… just once or twice. Thank you God.’ ”
This was Ms. Blume’s third book (#1 was The One in the Middle is the Green Kangaroo and #2 Iggie’s House), but her first big seller. It was a relative hit when it first came out, but according to Twentieth Century Young Adult Writers, “it was only when the book appeared in paperback in 1974 that the hundreds of letters became thousands, all of them from readers who saw themselves and their lives reflected perfectly in Margaret’s story.”
It was probably also the earliest Blume title that has been routinely challenged and banned. American Writers for Children Since 1960: Fiction says that, “Attempts at censoring the book have continued throughout its lifetime; the Newsletter on Intellectual Freedom reports that it has been charged with ‘denigrating religion and parental authority’ and being ’sexually offensive and amoral’.” Ms. Blume says of her first experiences with banning, “. . . one night the phone rang and a woman asked if I was the one who had written that book. When I replied that I was, she called me a communist and hung up. I never did figure out if she equated communism with breast development or religion.”
Bird, E. (2012, May 19). Top 100 Children’s Novels #74: Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret? by Judy Blume [Review of the book Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret, by J. Blume]. School Library Journal, Retrieved from http://blogs.slj.com/afuse8production/2012/05/19/top-100-childrens-novels-74-are-you-there-god-its-me-margaret-by-judy-blume/#_
Ideas for Library Use
Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret would be a wonderful addition to a girl’s book club for ages 10 to 13 or presented as an optional read in health class. It discusses the changes girls face as they step into their teenage years and it is sometimes easier to read about these issues.