Friday, June 27, 2014

Everything You Ever Wanted To Know About Fiction: Bad Kitty - Drawn to Trouble by Nick Bruel


Bwaaa-haaa-haaa! His name is Nick Bruel, and he is the master of this universe.  It's often not a pretty sight, with a main character (or protagonist, as Nick explains patiently) like Bad Kitty, a born contrarian. Kitty tries to resist being put into a story, stalking away to her basket with her favorite snarky retort:


Kitty also tries snatching Nick's pencil from his all-powerful hand when she doesn't like the plotline.

And she particularly doesn't care for Nick's choice of an antagonist to introduce the conflict:

No, not now, Terry. Go back! Go Back!
Terry? Don't worry about him, Kitty. That was just a little foreshadowing, which is when a writer drops little hints about what's going to come later in the story.

Nick goes on to explain that he has to pick a setting for the story, and after Kitty gets an unexpected dowsing in the briny deep setting of a pirate tale, almost gets snatched by a zombie or chomped by a lion, the author relents and settles on the relatively quiet confines of Kitty's house as the setting.

Soon, Terry, soon. Just be patient.

It's time to think of what unfolds to make things happen in Kitty's plot. Now what is Kitty's conflict to be? She's a famous overeater, so the hand of the creator draws Kitty as the star of Bad Kitty Goes On A Diet. Now, that's a sure-fire best-seller. But to be a real literary success, the story must have a theme. Could it be a turnip? Uh, oh. Even authors have a hard time explaining themes. Where's an English teacher when you need one? Let's consult Uncle Murray's Fun Facts.

"Well, you've been talking a lot about things like "character" and "setting" and "plot" and stuff like that. I think the theme here is about writing stories," (says the sage in the undershirt).

Uncle Murray knows his novels. So now all Nick Bruel and Bad Kitty have to do is pick a suitable plot, put in some arresting plot points to wake up their readers, choose a style (comic, scary, lyrical), add a few minor characters (Strange Cat? Chatty Cat?), and they're on their way to a conclusion, so Kitty can get back to her nap.

But, WAIT! Nick still has to work Terry the Turnip into the story. I know. He's annoying, but a promise is a promise.

Nick Bruel, the brilliant author-illustrator of all those best-selling Bad Kitty books, decides to morph into Meta-Fiction Man (all the cool authors are doing it, you know), and open up that fourth wall to his extremely intelligent readers, in his seventh in series, Bad Kitty Drawn to Trouble (Roaring Brook Press, 2014). After this one, Bruel's readers are ready to ace the "elements of fiction" section of their state language arts tests: viz.:

The protagonist is
a. a little hint at what happens later in the story
b. the main character
c. a turnip.

Bruel even teaches his dear readers how to draw Bad Kitty, part by part, in case they want to do their own book, in this laugh-out-loud manual to the art of writing and reading fiction, making this Bad Kitty beginning chapter book an excellent kick-off for the study of analysis of fiction for kids of all ages. Strange Kitty, Expert on Everything, even points out that Nick has failed to note the attribution of the hand of the creator in the story, citing Looney Tunes' Duck Amuck and Rabbit Rampage as precursors. Bruel's quirky characters and comic style could make a turnip laugh, and this one may be the best yet. As Kirkus' starred review reports, "Surprisingly (and sneakily) instructional, totally hilarious…and worth every penny. (glossary, recipe)"

WAIT! Glossary? Where? What for?

And there's a recipe for roasted turnips?

Bwaa-haaa-haaa! And now, the Appendix....

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