The Sorely Trying Day
by Lillian & Russell Hoban
1964 (recently republished)
First of all, let me begin by saying that Russell Hoban is one of my favorite authors. Most noted for the Francis books...
Bedtime for Frances
A Birthday for Frances
A Baby Sister for Frances
Bread and Jam for Frances
I love Frances, and love those books. They are still funny and delightful after countless readings. Frances wasn't the only books he wrote though, sadly several other great titles were out of print.
One of them, The Sorely Trying Day, is now back in print! Yeah!!
The story begins with Father arriving home from a sorely trying day (who can't relate to that?). Father would like a little peace and quiet, but no, he comes home to consternation and confusion! The cat is atop the grandfather clock, the dog barking, and his four children squabbling and hitting each other. Mother is being ignored by all.
Father attempts to sort out the situation. A bevy of recriminations ensue; each blames the next in line, and the children are punished for their various misdeeds.
And the punishment for behaving so badly to each other? They will not be allowed to press flowers in their scrapbooks for a week. But flower-pressing is their favorite activity! These are good children at heart who just happened to be having a bad day. A surprising twist to the blaming ensues when the mouse decides that "All this suffering must end somewhere"... "Let it end with me, since I am the least of the least." He prepares to die, but the cat exclaims, "You are insufferable, and I refuse to let you die a hero's death." The cat then apologizes to the dog, and each continues on and on to take responsibility and apologize.
This is a wonderful moral lesson. It works because it never gets preachy. Plus, most children easily recognizes themselves in the story. As a parent, one of my favorite aspects of this story comes after everyone has taking responsibility for their part and apologized, the children hope that they will no longer need to suffer a punishment, However, Father says, "Every action has its consequence, and bad acts must be punished so that they will not be repeated."
Alas, still no flower pressing. Father does note that there are only three days left of the week so that they only have a little punishment to endure.