Have you ever known it was going to be a bad day from the moment you woke up? Crusty eyes, soggy cereal, itchy tags in your clothes—everything seems to go wrong. And that’s all before you even get to school! A line cutter in class! A missing pudding at lunch! A terrible case of the hiccups!
Some days are just plain bad, and Chelsea Lin Wallace and Hyewon Yum have captured all that goes wrong for one child in Ode to a Bad Day. With each turn of the page, readers are presented with a new rhyming ode to misfortune: “Oh Oops, / whoops!” begins the lyric to a ruined painting in art class. “Oh Yucky, / your slimy sauce does not smell yummy” goes the ode to a disappointing spaghetti dinner. There’s even a verse to an elusive “Cricket in My Room” that can be heard but never found. (But keep looking! Careful readers will love hunting for the little green bug on nearly every page.)
Just when we feel “so annoyed,” we are reminded that we are “not destroyed.” After all, the “best part of a baddish day / is when it ends, and I’m OK.”
Hyewon Yum, author-illustrator of the award-winning picture book Mom, It’s My First Day of Kindergarten!, brings her signature style of watercolor and colored pencils to this bad day. She transforms the protagonist’s face into dramatic expressions of frustration, with frowns, pouts and big open-mouth wails. There’s even a perfectly hilarious spread of a classic meltdown in the grocery store’s cereal aisle—something all parents have certainly witnessed.
While most pages show all the things going wrong around the protagonist, Yum cleverly uses occasional spreads to highlight the child’s emotions. In these visually striking moments, the child is shown on their own, their feelings palpable as they stride across a stormy cloud, or grimace amid a shower of rainbow pencil strokes.
Reminiscent of Judith Viorst’s classic Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day, Ode to a Bad Day is wholly relatable and highly engaging, with lively, rolling poetry and rich, charming illustrations. No matter what kind of day it has been, don’t be surprised if young readers want to read this book over and over.