Bad Kitty Drawn to Trouble



Zany hijinks disguise terrific storytelling lesson.

What parents need to know

Educational value

The author uses Kitty to illustrate key elements of story construction, including protagonists and antagonists, the importance of conflict, open and closed endings, plot points, and even MacGuffins. Starred words are defined in an appendix. There's a note at the end about copying other people's work versus being inspired by it.

Positive messages
Your story is your story: You can take it in any direction you wish. It's OK to be inspired by someone else's idea so long as you make the story your own.
Positive role models

The author (as narrator) encourages readers to try their hands at writing stories, even making their own Bad Kitty stories. Aside from Kitty, the cartoon characters are generally polite and well-behaved.

Violence & scariness
Kitty's menaced by a lion, a polar bear, and a zombie who loses body parts, though it's played for laughs and isn't at all frightening. She rips up a book because she's unhappy with the story and kicks an anthropomorphic turnip. She's pictured leaping at the author, who then complains that he's choking, cold, and in darkness.
Not applicable

Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that although Bad Kitty Drawn to Trouble is enjoyable and funny as an illustrated book, it's really a very smart guide to writing stories. Bad Kitty lives up to her name: She's grouchy, uncooperative, and uninterested in playing well with others, and that's the central conflict driving the humor. The author-illustrator pays homage to classic Looney Tunes shorts by teasing and manipulating Kitty to illustrate his points.

Parents say

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What's the story?

In BAD KITTY DRAWN TO TROUBLE, author-illustrator Nick Bruel first introduces himself and then takes readers through a Bad Kitty story, introducing Kitty as the main character and proposing a few ideas for settings before deciding on Kitty's home. The story needs conflict: Kitty loves to eat, but she needs to go on a diet. Puppy comes in as the antagonist who eats all of Kitty's food. She faints from shock, and the author proposes putting her on an all-turnip diet to recover. Kitty packs her bags to leave, but a giant octopus at the door forces her back. Bruel brings it all together for a closed ending, with Kitty now loving turnips -- but Kitty doesn't like that ending and convinces him to bring back her usual heaping pile of cat food.

Is it any good?

Bad Kitty Drawn to Trouble is a brilliant bit of inspiration for budding writers. As he did in Bad Kitty for President, which deftly demystified U.S. politics, Nick Bruel lures readers with slapstick humor, then serves up a solid lesson on writing before they even realize they're learning. Bad Kitty is her usual cantankerous self, bristling at her creator's manipulations. Uncle Murray steps in to explain plot versus theme, closed versus open endings, and how a writer makes use of a dictionary, thesaurus, and rhyming dictionary.
At the book's end, a character accuses the author of stealing the idea for the interplay between creator and character from Looney Tunes shorts. Bruel says those cartoons inspired him but he didn't copy them, and he encourages readers to write Bad Kitty books. A small quibble: If Bruel had shared his inspiration upfront, it would have been a good lesson on acknowledging source material. Bonus: At the end there's a recipe for roasted turnips. 

Families can talk about...

  • Families can talk about the elements of storytelling with a favorite bedtime story, TV show, or movie. Can you identify a plot point, the antagonist, or a MacGuffin?
  • What's the difference between creating media inspired by another creative work -- such as Bad Kitty -- and copying?
  • Do you prefer stories with open endings or closed endings?

Book details

Author:Nick Bruel
Illustrator:Nick Bruel
Topics:Book characters, Cats, dogs, and mice
Book type:Fiction
Publisher:Roaring Brook Press
Publication date:January 7, 2014
Number of pages:128
Publisher's recommended age(s):7 - 10
Read aloud:7 - 8
Read alone:7 - 10
Available on:Hardback, iBooks, Kindle

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  • Best: Really engaging; great learning approach.
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  • Fair: Somewhat engaging; OK learning approach.
  • Not for Learning: Not recommended for learning.
  • Not for Kids: Not age-appropriate for kids; not recommended for learning.

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Kid, 7 years old January 17, 2014


REALLY GREAT!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!


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