Bad Kitty Takes the Test

Book review by
Darienne Stewart, Common Sense Media
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Sympathetic, sly send-up of testing is both smart and funny.

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this book.

Educational Value

Explains why tests are useful. Neat facts about a failed CIA effort to train cats for spy work, the first cat that went into space, and how to say "cat" in several languages, along with an unproven story about Sir Isaac Newton and the invention of the cat door. Lots of information about eggs, including production, composition, and nutrition.

Positive Messages

It's normal to be anxious before a challenge, but worrying doesn't help. Cheating really shortchanges yourself, because you won't have learned anything. Tests can be a valuable way to see if you're learning what you need to know, and you should always make a good effort. Even if a task seems impossible, try: You might surprise yourself. Everyone is smart in his or her own way, and faith in yourself will lay the foundation for success. A good education isn't just about finding the right answers -- it's also about learning to ask the right questions.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Strange Kitty and his sidekick are very critical of the test but very supportive of test-takers. He offers practical advice for test prep and stresses the importance of asking good questions, especially if you don't know the answers. Bad Kitty makes up for her poor behavior by returning something that doesn't belong to her.

Violence & Scariness

A few pratfalls.

Language

A couple mentions of "poop."

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Bad Kitty Takes the Test is critical of standardized tests but supportive of readers who need to take them. Author Nick Bruel encourages making a sincere effort on tests but reminds kids that education is about much more than a single test. Bruel shares some practical advice for managing testing time, from a warning against cheating to reassurance that there's more to a good education than performing well on tests. In this case, corporate profit lies behind the ludicrous test scenario. In a wacky instructional video, a girl talks over the heads of the dim-witted boy and man in the video, and they dismissively say, "Girls are weird."

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What's the story?

In BAD KITTY TAKES THE TEST, Kitty has gotten notice that her cat license has been revoked following an awkward altercation involving some birds and a fall from a tree, along with some other un-cat-like behavior. Now she must take a class and pass the test to get her license back. The test, surprisingly, is conducted by an irritable chicken who proves to have another agenda. Chatty Kitty is in the class too, along with Uncle Murray, who thought he was getting his driver's license renewed. After hours of test prep, an abrasive chicken with an ulterior motive issues a final challenge that's utterly impossible ... or is it?

Is it any good?

Teachers and students will be tickled by Nick Bruel's kind but rebellious take on standardized testing. Respect the test, he advises, and take it seriously, but it's OK to giggle at the silliness of it all. Bad Kitty Takes the Test earns high marks all around: It's a wonderful book for kids who hate tests, kids who might love them too much, and everyone in between.

Bruel is a skilled satirist, and he's clearly no fan of standardized testing: The cat-licensing outfit is SCAM (for Society of Cat Aptitude Management), the prep class mostly involves watching an old video, and even the instructor implies it's a poor use of time. But that's no excuse to cheat or give up, Bruel makes clear. It's a sober message but delivered with the zany glee that makes the Bad Kitty series so much fun.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the silly exam in Bad Kitty Takes the Test. Do you ever feel like tests are unfair?

  • How do you feel before a big test? How do you prepare for it?

  • What strategies do you think work best for you when learning something new?

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