LEON AND THE SPITTING IMAGE
Linn-Baker effortlessly inhabits the character of Leon Zeisel, a beleaguered fourth-grader with troubles at school that are larger (and weirder) than most kids'. As the first day of school approaches, Leon already feels a sense of defeat. He has peeked into his mother's papers and surreptitiously read a confidential file about his school performance to this point. Teachers' evaluations from the Classical School label him "clumsy" and "delayed," especially when it comes to demonstrating fine motor skills. That doesn't bode well when his fourth grade teacher turns out to be a strict and strange woman with a Velcroed-on wig, super-human hearing and a lesson plan that includes sewing a menagerie of stuffed animals throughout the year. As the school year and Leon's sewing ability progress, however, he finds a magical key to making his life a whole lot easier. Listeners will quickly be hooked by the goofy character traits and mysterious plot elements here, delivered in Linn-Baker's crisp, accomplished style. He consistently sounds chipper or downtrodden as the situation demands. As the title may suggest, kids will also delight in the fact that Leon's eventual triumph involves a good amount of spit. Ages 8-up. (Oct. 2003).