The point is to create a lively conversation about a particular bookish topic, make friends, and gain followers. Much to my delight, this week’s question is:
Q: What were some of your favorite picture books as a kid? If you have kids, what are your favorites to read to them?
If you were to ask me, now, what my favorite book is as an adult, I wouldn’t be able to answer you. It’d be like asking me to choose one thing to eat for the rest of my life: hay, raisins, or alfalfa. I need every single one of those things to survive. Hay provides fiber and sustenance; raisins are sweet and addictive – without them, life would not be worth living; and alfalfa provides much-needed variety. I think it’s fascinating that my response is on the exact opposite end of the spectrum when asked about my favorite children’s books. I don’t even need for the answer to be plural because I have one, unequivocal favorite.
Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day, by Judith Viorst.
I can’t tell you what I loved about it as a baby bunny. Sadly, I am a little too divorced from that reality now to remember (not terribly divorced (I still have a child-like heart and can be completely juvenile at times) but just enough). What I can tell you is that it’s stood the test of time and I still think it’s fantastic. So I can share what I love about it now.
It’s about a little boy – Alexander – who, as the title suggests, is having a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day. A slew of disappointing things happen to him (none too serious or egregious) and his solution is to decide to move to Australia. I think it’s a sound one. When I have a bad day now, I still consider that as a possibility.
I love the way that the bad things are presented. On each page, Alexander lists the numerous tragedies that befall him (like lima beans for dinner or kissing on tv), in order, and without much punctuation. There are no periods. Everything is linked up by the conjunction “and”, and Alexander piles it on, barely giving the reader time to breathe. It’s hilariously effective in showing just how truly overwhelmed the child is.
I love the illustrations by Ray Cruz. They’re just black and white, but they’re subtle and charming. I love, for instance, how in the very first drawing on the very first page, Alexander’s expression is being mimicked in the background by his teddy bear.
And more than anything, I love the ending. I love that Viorst doesn’t sugarcoat things or feel like she has to bring everything up with a false positive note. When Alexander goes to sleep, he’s still in a bad mood. He’s still grumpy! His mom doesn’t come in and tell him that “tomorrow will be a better day,” she just says, “Hey, buddy, some days are like that.” I love that the book allows kids to feel feelings and gives validation to their troubles. And I love that it does so without being heavy-handed. It quietly teaches that even when life’s got you down, it’s important not to lose your sense of humor.
On a related note, I’m thinking of hosting a Reading Challenge on my blog come January. It will be a 48-hour challenge (the goal will be to read as many pages & as many books as you can in a 48-hour time span, blogging & reviewing, & taking time to visit other participants’ blogs as you go along). I plan to solicit authors & publishing companies for some books to offer as prizes to the top-readers. (If anyone has any tips on how to go about doing this, I’d love to hear them!). The organizing principle – the theme, if you will – is going to be “Second Childhood Reading Challenge”, or “The Nostalgia Reading Challenge.” The idea is to reread your favorite childhood books & see if they’ve withstood the test of time. Chapter books only. No early readers or picture books will be counted toward page/book totals. For me, that includes books like Bridge to Terabithia, Bunnicula, The Phantom Tollbooth, A Ring of Endless Light, and some less impressive books that I’m both eager to revisit (because they’re hilarious to me now) and am dreading (because they’re sure to be trash). There was a series that I adored put out by the Ford Modeling Agency which will require some attention:
What do you guys think? Would you be interested in participating? Should I make this happen? ‘Cause if I did it & no one cared, it would be a Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day (plus another whole day), indeed. And I don’t really want to have to move to Australia.