Written by Judith Viorst, Illustrated by Robin Preiss Glasser (in the style of Ray Cruz)
Atheneum Books for Young Readers, 1995
They can’t make me pack my baseball mitt or my I LOVE DINOSAURS sweatshirt or my cowboy boots.
The plot in a nutshell: A boy resists moving away.
Alexander’s whole family is packing up to move to a new home, but he insists that he is not moving. The family is having to relocate due to his father’s new job and he learns that there are neighbors near their new house that are the same ages as his brothers, but no one that’s his age. He thinks about how he could never replace his best friend or his soccer team. His parents tell him he’ll make new friends and get used to his new town, but he still insists that he’s not going anywhere. He thinks about who he could live with and still stay in his own hometown. He goes to visit all the special places that mean something to him and says goodbye to all his friends and neighbors, although he is convinced he will find a way to stay. He considers hiding when the time comes for them to leave. His parents tell him some good things about moving and gradually he warms up to the idea, but he while he’s finally packing up to move, he thinks to himself that once they move there, they will need to stay, because he is definitely never moving again.
This is the third book in Judith Viorst’s Alexander series, although these characters do show up in other books by the author. She is taking the age old advice to write about what you know, as these characters are based on (and named after) her own three sons. Although this is the third in the series, it was published almost 20 years after the second and there would be another 19 years before she would write the fourth book. I loved the original book because of its genuine voice and the way it managed to be both funny and heartwarming. This book is no different, echoing the sentiments of thousands of kids who have been uprooted from homes and neighborhoods they loved. You feel for poor Alexander, even while you know that, just as his parents predict, everything is going to be fine in their new home.
The original illustrator of the first two books, Ray Cruz, passed away in 1988 and a note in the front of the book acknowledges his work on the first two books and his contributions to the development of art for this one, although he was unable to complete it. Instead, the artwork was done by Robin Preiss Glasser, mimicking Mr. Cruz’s artistic style. I have practically no skill at drawing and my level of admiration for an artist skyrockets when I see them draw in someone else’s style, which just seems like it would be so difficult to do. The illustrations here are in black and write line drawings and while they do perfectly capture the same characters from the original books, Ms. Preiss Glasser’s wonderful style and use of detail in the line work comes through, especially in the drawing of Alexander’s imagined life with a neighboring family of all girls. We loved speaking with her during the Inspiration Day event and hearing her speak about her inspirations for the Fancy Nancy series.
And what did we learn? What I take away from this book is that change is difficult and postponing the inevitable can sometimes just make it harder.