Leon and the Spitting Image



Every kid's fantasy -- controlling the teacher.

What parents need to know

Positive messages

Children make their teacher perform stunts, food fights, an off-color song.

Not applicable
Not applicable

Mild bathroom humor, the Miss Lucy playground song is quoted.

Not applicable
Drinking, drugs, & smoking

The coach chews tobacco; hotel guests get drunk.

Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that this is a lightweight, fun read.

What's the story?

Leon has difficulties with fine-motor coordination, which becomes a problem when his strange and maniacal fourth-grade teacher, Miss Hagmeyer, announces that each student will have to complete a series of increasingly difficult sewing assignments before going on to fifth grade. He also has problems with the class bully, Lumpkin, and an ice machine that keeps him up all night.

For his final project, Leon makes a doll that is the spitting image of Miss Hagmeyer. But when Lumpkin pours some of the coach's chewing tobacco spit on it, Leon discovers that he can control Miss Hagmeyer's actions with the doll. Suddenly life is full of interesting possibilities.

Is it any good?


This lightweight fantasy, with some mildly disgusting imagery, will keep middle-graders amused without horrifying their parents too much. The wish-fulfillment idea of controlling a mean teacher has real appeal, and the not-very-surprising ending, in which it turns out that the magic can't hurt anyone and that the teacher is not as mean as she seems, mitigates any edge the story may have seemed to have.

First-time children's author Allen Kurzweil is not taking any chances here, and there's a certain by-the-numbers quality to the care he invests in appealing to childish humor without bothering adults. The result is harmless and modestly entertaining, which seems to be what he was going for.

Families can talk about...

  • Families can talk about Lumpkin's bullying, the planned revenge, and the possible reasons for its failure. You might also ask your children what they think of Miss Hagmeyer's teaching -- their opinion may have changed by the end of the book.

Book details

Author:Allen Kurzweil
Illustrator:Bret Bertholf
Book type:Fiction
Publisher:HarperCollins Children's Books
Publication date:August 3, 2004
Number of pages:302
Read aloud:9
Read alone:9

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Learning ratings

  • Best: Really engaging; great learning approach.
  • Very Good: Engaging; good learning approach.
  • Good: Pretty engaging; good learning approach.
  • 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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Teen, 17 years old Written bychippergirl2772 June 27, 2010

My favorite book...and I'm 17!

This book was my absolute favorite book growing up. I've read it at least ten times and I don't read books. I actually just loaned it to a girl that I babysit. It really is a cute book and deals with the ability to control your teacher which all kids wish they could do. All in all it is one of my favorite books!
Kid, 12 years old April 9, 2008


Well I'm In Middle School I'm 11 & I Look At The Cover And I Thought It Looks Great,So I Read It Then BAM I Waz Great!! A MUST READ


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