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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. 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 winds up in his hair. When he gets out of bed, he trips on his skateboard and drops his sweater into the sink while the water was running. At breakfast, his brothers, Anthony and Nick, reach into their cereal boxes and find amazing prizes, while he ends up with just cereal.
In the carpool on the way to school, he doesn't get a window seat. His teacher, Mrs. Dickens, doesn't like his picture of the invisible castle (which is actually just a blank sheet of paper), criticizes him for singing too loud, and leaving out 16 at counting time. His friend, Paul, deserts him for his third best friend and there is no dessert in his lunchbag. At the dentist, Dr. Fields tells him he has a cavity and 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, Nick says he is a crybaby, he punches Nick for use of that word, and their mom punishes him for trying to punch Nick.
At the shoe store, they're out of Alexander's choice of sneakers (blue ones with red stripes), so his mom has to buy him plain white ones, which he refuses to wear. At his dad's office, he makes a mess of things when he fools around with everything there (the copying machine, the books, and the telephone), getting to the point where his dad tells him 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), bathtime becomes a nightmare (the water being too hot, getting soap in his eyes, and his marble going down the drain) and he has to wear his railroad train pajamas (which he hates). At bedtime, his night light burns out, he bites his tongue, Nick takes back a pillow he said he 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 (presumably because he thinks it's better there). It ends with his mom's assurance that everybody has bad days, even people who live there. In the Australian and New Zealand versions, he wants to move to Timbuktu instead.
While the special remained true to the book, there were some differences.
1. Aside from the running gag of Alexander making references to Australia, the producers added another one in the special: he searches everywhere for his favorite yo-yo; a purple glow in the dark one.
2. Dad has no mustache and has brown hair instead of blonde like he did in the book.
3. Nick has blonde hair instead of brown and wears glasses.
4. Anthony has brown hair instead of blonde.
5. The cat is named Timothy, but is unnamed in the book.
6. An additional 8 more bad things for Alexander were featured to the special:
7. The special also includes 3 good things to show the audience that even a bad day can have some good in it:
8. Although mentioned, the following bad things are not shown in the special.
9. The special also included three original songs:
In 1998, Viorst and the Kennedy Center joined together to turn the book into a musical production. Charles Strouse wrote the music, Viorst wrote the script and lyrics, and the musical score was composed by Shelly Markham. The productions have been performed around the country.
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. 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. Steve Carell has joined in April 2012, to star as Ben, Alexander's dad. In October 2012, Walt Disney Pictures picked up the project, reportedly due to Fox being "uncomfortable with the budget." In February 2013, Deadline reported that Cholodenko has left the project, and a month later, that Miguel Arteta was in talks with Disney to replace Cholodenko. In April 2013, Jennifer Garner was in talks to play Kelly, Alexander's mom. 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. The same month, Disney cast Ed Oxenbould as Alexander. Bella Thorne played Alexander's older brother's girlfriend.
Alexander and his two older brothers, Anthony and Nick, are based on Viorst's own three sons of the same names.
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.