Leon and the Spitting Image

by Allen Kurzweil

Stars: Unrated

So the reason this one is as yet unrated is because I haven’t read the whole thing.  We are reading it to several classes because the author is coming to visit the school soon.  However, after hearing the first couple of chapters four or five times, I feel qualified to comment on at least that much.  Also, I’ve been pretty quiet here because I haven’t been doing too much YA/children’s reading, but I’m almost done with two more so those will be up soon.

But back to the book at hand.  Kurzweil puts a LOT of detail into his narrative, so much that by the fourth reading I was still hearing new details.  That also meant that I was tuning out a lot – the story just wasn’t grabbing me, and all the details were a bit overwhelming.  I can only imagine what it felt like to the 3rd graders.  A fair number of the kids had already read it, though, so I’m sure that was helpful for them.  There were also a lot of big words and we stopped often to make sure the kids knew what was going on – some did, some didn’t.  It led to some interesting conversations, especially the origins of the phrase “spitting image”, which then prompted a lesson on using the internet to find the answer and which sites you should trust and how to tell.

In terms of plot, this book seems a little contrived and I wasn’t impressed.  The premise is that this boy, whose mom is the night manager of a one-star hotel in New York, goes to a school (with the motto “nimble fingers make for nimble minds”) where the teacher dresses like a witch and makes them spend the year learning how to sew.  Maybe I’ll feel differently if I ever finish it.  I’ll let you know.

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