Judith Viorst: Writing with--and about--Feeling

With books such as Sad Underwear And Other Complications: More Poems for Children and Their Parents, it’s no wonder that Judith Viorst is best-known for bringing humor and poignancy to readers in a reflection of childhood’s (and parenthood’s) spirit.

Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day coverThis author’s picture books are sometimes chosen to help young people understand their feelings while letting their parents find the humor in some tricky situations. Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day plunks the hero in the middle of what he is sure is the worst day ever. Nobody Here But Me has a young boy who is really lonely in a house full of people. Just in Case deals with worrying, and I’ll Fix Anthony focuses on little boy wanting revenge on his big brother.

In The Good-bye Book, a boy has lots of emotional reasons why he doesn’t want to say goodbye to his parents, who are hoping to have an evening out. More poignantly--and making most every bibliotherapy list--is The Tenth Good Thing about Barney, which specifically takes on the death of a pet, a situation that comes up in most childhoods. But, of course, reading this book together is really a way to help a child who is grieving anyone.

A Jersey girl who spent serious time in the heyday of Greenwich Village, Judith Viorst’s own life story has been recapped in mostly light-hearted poetry for adults with one volume for every decade. Another best-selling book, Necessary Losses (also for adults), delves into how the grief and emptiness people face as they grow older is a normal part of life and can make them ultimately stronger.

You can learn more about Judith Viorst through our excellent research sources (Biography in Context and Literature Resource Center) and at the Library of Congress’ National Book Festival page which includes webcasts/podcasts, an interview with the author, and a link to her publisher’s site.

Fast Facts:

Born: Newark, New Jersey, 2 February 1931.

Education: Rutgers University, B.A. (with honors), 1952; Washington Psychoanalytic Institute, graduate, 1981.

Family: Married Milton Viorst, 1960; children: three sons: Nicholas Nathan "Nick" Viorst, Anthony Jacob Viorst, Alexander Noah Viorst

Career: Poet, journalist, and writer of books for adults and children.

Selected Awards: New Jersey Institute of Technology awards, 1970, for I'll Fix Anthony; School Library Journal citation for one of the best books of the year, 1972, and Georgia Children's Picture Book award, 1977, for Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day; Silver Pencil award, 1973, for The Tenth Good Thing about Barney.