Today Was a Terrible Day
Written by: Patricia Reilly Giff
Illustrated by: Susanna Natti
Published in 1980
Genre: Picture Book, Realistic Fiction
Grade Level: K-2
Summary: Ronald Morgan is having a terrible day. Anything and everything seems to be going wrong, until a note from his teacher brightens his day.
Cover/Illustrations: The illustrations in this book aren’t my favorite, but they’re not bad. Natti used a lot of muted and somber colors, which match the tone of the story. The pictures compliment the narrative and are helpful in understanding what’s going on.
The Good: This is a cute story about a little boy in second grade who is having a terrible day. Everything seems to be going wrong, from messing up in his reading group to knocking over a plant on the windowsill. At the end of the day his teacher gives him a note and asks him to try to read it at home. Ronald realizes he can read the note, which lifts his spirit and makes his day better.
This would be a good book to read to students when you are trying to encourage kindness. Some schools do character traits of the month, which would be a good time to read it. Today Was a Terrible Day could also be a good book to encourage specific children who are going through a tough time to read, making sure to to focus on the fact that things do get better.
The Bad: As I said before, the colors in this book are somewhat muted, which means (in my opinion) that they are less likely to catch children’s attention.
Another thing I don’t really like is Ronald referring to himself as being in the “dumb group.” Add to that the fact that his teacher spends the whole day yelling at him and then discusses him (in a negative light) with another teacher within hearing range of the other children, who then go on to make fun of him. With all of that thrown in the book isn’t as encouraging as it could (or should) be. Not only that, but the “kindness” shown in the book comes from the teacher, not the students, which makes less of an impact.
One last thing that bugged me about this story is part of the narrative. On two occasions it is stated that random students were reading, and it states what reading group the children were in. The names are never brought up again, and it seems like Ronald is assigned to do other tasks during this time. It makes me wonder what is meant by saying that they are reading. Are they reading out loud to the entire class? If so, why is Ronald’s group working on something else? Are they just reading to their groups? If so, why mention it at all? This was just confusing to me.
Final Thoughts: Today Was a Terrible Day is a cute book that I might read to my students if the situation called for it. The book has its problems, but it also has a good message.
I give Today Was a Terrible Day three stars.