3 poems from Judith Viorst’s What Are You Glad About? What Are You Mad About?

I’ll always remember the day I found Judith Viorst’s Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day in the public library.

“Read me,” demanded a well worn copy left behind on one of the round wooden tables in the children’s room. I picked it up, read it all the way through, then sat down in a tiny chair to read it again.

I became a Viorst fan that day as I eagerly made my way through the other Alexander books. I found myself coveting train pajamas and contemplating a move to Australia. Totally nailing the child voice, Viorst (who made me very glad I didn’t have gum stuck in my hair) had a way of telling it true and assuaging frustration and calamity with just the right dose of humor. Months later, when the family across the street lost their cat, I gave them a copy of The Tenth Good Thing About Barney. Judith to the rescue again.

Her latest poetry collection, What Are You Glad About? What Are You Mad About? (Atheneum, 2016) is subtitled, “Poems for When a Person Needs a Poem.” Feeling a little lonely in your own skin? Or silly enough to eat a lamp for lunch? Maybe you’re fiercely jealous of too sweet, too kind, nauseatingly polite Anna May — why not bite or bop her? 🙂 What do you do when your best friend doesn’t want to be your best friend any more, or your mom is just too bossy, or your head is spinning from all those reading and writing rules?

Judith knows that sometimes the right poem at the right time is just the thing. With 50+ poems grouped in 11 appealing categories such as School Stuff, Mysteries, Songs of the Seasons, About This and That, and About the Family, she explores the many ups and downs of childhood through an emotional lens that engages and resonates. And what are poems, if not about human emotion?

The mostly rhyming poems, whimsically illustrated by Lee White, will make kids laugh, question, think, and reflect. They will nod in recognition, appreciate the honesty, and like having their feelings validated. It’s always good to be assured that you’re not alone. I think the strongest poems are the ones about friends and family (what’s more cathartic than riffing on your wacky relatives?), or the playful rollicking verses that beg to be read aloud, such as, “This Substitute Teacher is Really Into Rhyming”:

Icicle, bicycle,
Holiest, lowliest
Kalamazoo and achoo.
Spaghetti and steady
And also confetti . . .
Rhyming is such fun to do!

Being a kid means you’re often curious and you spend lots of time observing and wondering about weird things (what are toes really for? why are there no places on Earth where lost eyeglasses belong?). Do you like solving puzzles? Try some “Arithmetrick.” Ever want something badly enough that you’re willing to compromise no matter what? In “Daniel Tries Out for the School Play,” one can’t help but admire Daniel’s persistence and determination; he’s not the least bit daunted as he keeps getting turned down for part after part.

Whether it’s a childhood fear, disappointment, winsome observation or joyous discovery, Judith’s got you covered with her smorgasbord of universal themes. It’s nice to see that familiar wry wit and clever wordplay I fell for all those years ago still going strong.

For your nibbling pleasure, here’s a triple treat: the title poem, a fun “Sound of Music” song parody, and a lip smacking paean to grilled cheese (hello!). Enjoy!




If you had just one color to paint the whole world,
Would it be orange or gray?
If you had just one message to give to the world,
Would it be grr or hooray?
If you had just one place you could live in this world,
Would you choose here or away?
What are you glad about?
What are you mad about?
How are you feeling today?

Did you wake up this morning all smiley inside?
Does life taste like ice cream and cake?
Or does it seem more like your goldfish just died
And your insides are one great big ache?
Do you wish you could go in a closet and hide?
Or would you rather go play?
What are you glad about?
Mad about? Sad about?
How are you feeling today?

When they ask you to do something, will you say yes?
Or will your answer be no?
Do you think that you get what you want– or much less?
Are you shrinking or starting to grow?
Is that person you see in the mirror a mess?
Or is that person okay?
What are you glad about?
Mad, sad, or glad about?
How are you feeling today?




Bellyaches, earaches, and teeth that need drilling.
Putting on dress-up shoes — ugly and killing.
Jellyfish, bees, and whatever else stings.
These are among my least favorite things.

Flat tires, vampires, getting all muddy.
Tests for which I have forgotten to study.
Wakened each day by my clock’s ding-a-lings.
These are among my least favorite things.

When my tongue’s bit,
When my toe’s stubbed,
When I need a nurse,
I simply recall my least favorite things,
And then I feel even worse.

No more hot water while taking a shower.
Being expected to eat cauliflower.
Picked to paint scenery, not to play kings.
These are among my least favorite things.

Having to share when I don’t feel like sharing.
Wearing a coat it’s too hot to be wearing.
Singing the song wrong when everyone sings.
These are among my least favorite things.

When my coke spills,
When my nose bleeds,
When I’m last, not first,
I simply recall my least favorite things,
And then what’s worse becomes worst.

Scorpions, spiders, and all creatures creepy.
Going to bed when I’m not one bit sleepy.
Trying to end this darn poem with an “ings.”
These are among my least favorite things.




My papa is my daddy’s dad.
He tickles and he teases.
He makes me sandwiches for lunch.
The best are his grilled cheeses.

My papa helps remind me of
My thank-yous and my pleases.
But I don’t need reminders when
I’m eating his grilled cheeses.

My papa rides a bicycle,
And even skis on skises.
But what he’s really champion of
Is grilling his grilled cheeses.

My papa snores ferocious snores
And sneezes mighty sneezes.
But nothing shakes and nothing breaks
When he makes his grilled cheeses.

My papa doesn’t hear too well.
He’s achy in the kneeses.
But he’s completely perfect when
He’s grilling his grilled cheeses.

My papa’s traveled everywhere.
He’s sailed the seven seases.
But I think he likes staying home
To make me his grilled cheeses.

When I get to be president,
I’ll banish prunes and leases,
And name my papa head of the
Department of Grilled Cheeses.



written by Judith Viorst
illustrated by Lee White
published by Atheneum, February 2016
Poetry for ages 6-9, 112 pp.


poetry fridayLovely and talented Jone MacCulloch is hosting the Roundup this week at Check It Out. Click through to enjoy the full menu of delectable goodies being shared in the blogosphere and have a nice weekend!


What are some of your least favorite things? 🙂

This is definitely not one of mine:

Grilled Cheese Painting by The Crazy Plate Lady


Copyright © 2016 Jama Rattigan of Jama’s Alphabet Soup. All rights reserved.

44 thoughts on “3 poems from Judith Viorst’s What Are You Glad About? What Are You Mad About?

  1. Charming book! Makes me want a grilled cheese. I like cauliflower, but otherwise, we are pretty much on the same page vis a vis least favorite things.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I love poetry books for children. This looks like a fun one! I am definitely checking this one out at the library this week. Thanks for the suggestion.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. My very favorite Viorst book is still If I Were In Charge Of The World, And Other Worries, but I adore each new one she comes up with. I am trying to sing “A Few Of My Least Favorite Things” to the Julie Andrews tune, but keep laughing at the ludicrous looks I’m receiving from Tech Boy. Ah, well.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. This looks like such a wonderful collection, Jama! I just put it in my library “book bag” to request. So excited to read it! Now I want a grilled cheese sandwich…

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Appreciations with a licorice moustache on top Jama, for this delightful share.

    I don’t like cat fur in my provolone grilled cheese.
    I must go & discuss this with Ginger,
    our ginger cat,
    about how cat fur in provolone grilled cheese
    makes me wheeze.


  6. This looks very cute & kid friendly, Jama–thanks for the recommendation!

    Two of my least favorite things: meat (I’m a vegetarian) and onion rings and mayonnaise. I remember a classmate in elementary school saying it was pimple pus, and I still haven’t gotten over that 😉

    And traffic is right up there too:)!!


  7. Viorst’s poems (and picture books) resonate with me so much. She read my mind in the first line of her My Least Favorite Things poem:
    “teeth that need drilling” – something I will be having done next week. Ugh. Great post, Jama! =)


    1. I hear you on the dental thing — don’t like drilling either. I do have a nice dentist, though, which helps. 🙂


  8. The Tenth Good Thing about Barney has long been a go-to book when parents come to the library looking for departed-pet books.

    When I saw, “Or silly enough to eat a lamp for lunch?” I mis-read it as “silly enough to eat a lamprey.” “That’s not silly,” I thought. People eat lampreys.” (Ugly as they may be…) But then I realized it was a plain old lamp you were talking about. And why did I think lamprey? Because I’ve been reading an awesome book called The Soul of an Octopus by Sy Montgomery. If anyone wants to read a good nonfiction book over the summer, I highly recommend it!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I didn’t know people eat lampreys. Your misreading taught me something new :). As for me, I’m particular about which lamps I eat for lunch — since it’s midday, I want something light. 😀

      Will make a note of Montgomery’s book. Octopuses seem to be everywhere these days.


  9. Each of these is such fun, I don’t think I could choose a favorite! (Even though I am partial to grilled cheese!) This looks like a must-have collection. Thanks for sharing it today, Jama!


  10. When I saw your tagline in the Linky, I went, “SQUEEE! A new book of poetry by Judith Viorst!!” She’s a favorite on Poetry Friday in my classroom (who can resist being in charge of the world?) and I can’t wait to share this new book with next year’s poets!


  11. Back when my son was in elementary school, I remember him bringing home a poem he wrote in class modeled on If I Were In Charge of the World. One of my faves to this day. I enjoyed reading about your introduction and experiences with Viorst, Jama, and of course, those fun, kid-friendly poems!


  12. You always get me adding books to my ‘to find / to be read’ list! (I have actually bought books for the grands after reading about them on here!) Judith Viorst sounds irresistible. I have put her on that list. Thanks, Jama!


  13. Jama, if I sign up to host PF, can you direct me to pages where I can learn how to offer the linking up? I don’t know how to to do that, and I just googled it and got everything but. Thanks, Brenda


    1. Hi Brenda,
      I always use Mr. Linky:

      Because I’m on wordpress.com, I can’t embed any widgets in my posts, so the basic Mr. Linky (where readers are directed to a separate page of links), is the only one I can use. If your blog is also on wordpress.com, I think the same would apply to you. Otherwise, you might be able to use a widget that enables you to show the link roundup right in your post. There are fancier ones other than Mr. Linky, but I’m not familiar with how to use them.

      If you do decide to use the basic Mr. Linky, you can then paste the code into your post, which will show a Mr. Linky button for readers to use. You need to use the text editor rather than the visual editor to paste the code into your post. Hope this helps!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Awesome! Yes, my blog is WP, too. I like those ones that show a thumbnail right in the post but those don’t work on WP? I wonder if I can do a trial run with Mr. Linky… I’ll have to ponder how that would work. I appreciate your help very much! XOXO


      2. I think the ones with the thumbnails in the post would only work if you were on wordpress.org. You could do a trial run — just trying embedding the Mr. Linky code in a test post. When you switch back to the visual editor you should see a Mr. Linky button in your post :).

        Liked by 1 person

  14. I can’t wait to get this book. I want to read more about Daniel audition woes and Papa’s grilled cheeses. This fall, Judith Viorst is coming to our local SCBWI conference in Arlington, VA. I am SO excited!


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