This Is Just a Test

Wendy Wan-Long Shang and Made­lyn Rosenberg
  • Review
By – June 15, 2017

David’s bar mitz­vah is com­ing in six weeks. He is both Jew­ish and Chi­nese. His fam­i­ly is oper­at­ing on a tight bud­get, but things are going well enough until his Jew­ish grand­moth­er insists they have what she calls a prop­er bar mitz­vah.” The impli­ca­tions of this med­dling exac­er­bates the stress of the com­ing event. Addi­tion­al­ly, his Jew­ish and Chi­nese grand­moth­ers have a dif­fi­cult rela­tion­ship and are con­stant­ly under­cut­ting and snip­ing at each other.

Prick­ly peer rela­tion­ships abound as well. David and his two best friends are going to par­tic­i­pate in a triv­ial pur­suit con­test; they are inex­pe­ri­enced and a year younger than their lead­ing com­peti­tors. David would also like to devel­op his rela­tion­ship with a poten­tial girl­friend but lacks the social skills to move for­ward. The book is set in 1984, a time when the nuclear threat from Rus­sia was caus­ing some fam­i­lies to build shel­ters to save them­selves in case of attack. David and his friend Scott start to build a fall­out shel­ter, exclud­ing David’s old­est and most loy­al friend Hector.

All of these plot threads cul­mi­nate, of course, at the bar mitzvah.

Sure to hold a reader’s inter­est and filled with humor, the author empha­sizes some impor­tant themes: don’t under­es­ti­mate the sup­port of your fam­i­ly; a loy­al friend is an inclu­sive one; apol­o­gize when you’re wrong. 

Boys in par­tic­u­lar will like this one! 

Rec­om­mend­ed for ages 11 to 14

Marge Kaplan is a retired Eng­lish as a Sec­ond Lan­guage teacher. She is a con­sul­tant for the children’s lit­er­a­ture group for the Roseville, MN school sys­tem and is a sto­ry­teller of Jew­ish tales.

Discussion Questions