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Spitting Image

Spitting Image

4.0 4
by Shutta Crum

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Twelve-year-old Jessie K. Bovey has a lot to worry about. She doesn’t know who her father is; her old biddy of a grandmother keeps interfering in her life; her best friend, Robert, desperately needs new glasses that his family can’t afford; and mean Dickie Whitten teases Robert until Jessie has no choice but to punch him out.

When some New York


Twelve-year-old Jessie K. Bovey has a lot to worry about. She doesn’t know who her father is; her old biddy of a grandmother keeps interfering in her life; her best friend, Robert, desperately needs new glasses that his family can’t afford; and mean Dickie Whitten teases Robert until Jessie has no choice but to punch him out.

When some New York City reporters show up in Beulah County to research a story about the War on Poverty, Jessie sees a way to solve one of her problems. She can charge money for showing the reporters around town so they can take pictures of the “local color” and use it to help pay for Robert’s glasses. But her plan backfires spectacularly, and Jessie learns some big lessons—and some big secrets as well.

A small Kentucky town and its quirky inhabitants are vividly evoked in Shutta Crum’s warm, atmospheric coming-of-age story, which handles multiple serious themes with a light touch.

Editorial Reviews

Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books
...an engaging and believable narrative voice...the tender touches of the loving characters embrace both Jessie and the reader...
April 2003
...with all the local color details is...her search for her father, told with truth, tears, laughter, and real surprise.
March 1, 2003
Oakland Press
She's feisty, she's fun...champion of the underdog...Jessie's story...takes more sharp curves than a hillside country road.
March 18, 2003
Publishers Weekly
Set in a small town in Beulah County, Ky., in 1967, Crum's involving first novel unfolds through the perspective of a fiesty, thoroughly appealing 12-year-old narrator. Jessie lives with her single mother and spends much of her time with contemplative Robert and his endearingly eccentric four-year-old brother, Baby Blue. Soon after the story opens, the three meet Miss Woodruff, a kind VISTA worker who has come to the economically depressed area as a soldier in President Johnson's War on Poverty. Jessie, engaged in a constant struggle to stay out of trouble ("Jessie, Dickie may really rile you up good, but you've got to stop using your fists to make a point," a sympathetic neighbor tells her), tackles other dilemmas as well. The heroine is determined to discover who her father is, raise money to help Robert get the new eyeglasses he desperately needs and to "figure out... how to get a nicer grandmother [and] how to control my temper as I'd promised Mama over and over that I would." The ways in which she achieves her goals make for engrossing reading, and the catalysts frequently come in the form of the novel's darker personalities, including Robert's alcoholic father, mean-spirited Dickie and his sinister dad. Some difficult themes make this more appropriate for mature readers. Through Jessie's authentic, resounding voice, the author ably balances the humorous and the heart-wrenching as she presents an affecting portrait of memorable characters in trying times. Ages 9-13. (Apr.) Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
Children's Literature
This story revolves around the life of Jessie Bovey, a 12-year-old seemingly fearless tomboy. The story takes place in rural Kentucky in 1967. Poverty is evident throughout the novel and so prominent that it brings New York City reporters to Jessie's town. They are eager to write about the war on poverty, and Jessie wants to find a new pair of glasses for her best friend Robert who can't afford them. When the reporters interview her and she takes them around town, the stories they write are very different from what she said. The inhabitants around town become very upset, and Jessie learns many important lessons. This is a great book for teachers to teach; it includes themes concerning poverty, pride, child abuse, friendship and family. Though these topics remain sensitive, the story treats them lightly. This is a great book for children in the middle grades because of its emphasis on questions that Jessie addresses at this point in her life. This book is highly recommended! 2003, Clarion Books, Ages 9 to 13.
—Sara Love
School Library Journal
Gr 5-8-With a devotion to justice and a quick temper, Jessie Bovey, 12, has been known to indulge in fisticuffs with those who insult her or her friends. Born "out of wedlock," she feels secure in the love of her mother, yet wonders why she won't tell her anything about her father. While her grandmother, the "old biddy," seems to pick on her, Lester, the oldest member of their small community, holds her in warm regard just as she is. Excitement arrives when Lyndon Johnson's War on Poverty brings a VISTA volunteer to her small Kentucky town and Baby Blue, Jessie's friend Robert's developmentally delayed younger brother, might get to go to something called Head Start. Innocently, Jessie assists reporters and photographers and is mortified when they grab national attention by focusing only on the worst aspects of her community and dearest friends. When a huge poisonous snake is set loose on her and Baby Blue, her grandmother coolly executes a superb rescue. As the story comes to a close, Jessie has learned who her father was and of violence in her mother's life, and she seems to be getting some control of her temper. Spitting Image contains as much cultural truth as Ruth White's Belle Prater's Boy (Farrar, 1996), but in contrast is narrated by a charmingly unpolished character looking from the point of view of the working poor. Truly memorable characters abound, and moonshining, snake handling, a rape 13 years earlier, and racial discord are knitted together in an absorbing plot with an uplifting ending. A remarkable first novel.-Cindy Darling Codell, Clark Middle School, Winchester, KY Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
Twelve-year-old Jessie can't decide which is worse, having no father or one that's no good. Secrets and strangers are few in her small town of Baylor, Kentucky, until Miss Woodruff, a VISTA volunteer, arrives in the summer of 1967, changing the lives of Jessie, her friend Robert, and his brother, Baby Blue, and their families. When Miss Woodruff says government help is available for medical needs and schooling, Jessie plans to raise $20 to get Robert new glasses. When two photographers need a guide to show them all the people and places of local color, Jessie earns ten dollars. But her plan backfires when a photo of dirty, barefoot Baby Blue sleeping on Cooch, their dog, appears in a national paper, and everyone is embarrassed at the way they're portrayed. Backwoods, small-town flavor is peppered with distinct characters and Jessie's spirit and determination drive the plot and theme of fathers. The dilemma is believably resolved with both emotional pain and gain as issues of bigotry, hatred, moonshiners, and religious snake-handling thread through the story. Her cover portrait will draw readers; her voice will intrigue them. (Fiction. 9-13)
From the Publisher

"Narrated by a chamingly unpolished character...truly memorable characters abound...absorbing plot with an uplifting ending. A remarkable first novel." SCHOOL LIBRARY JOURNAL, STARRED REVIEW

School Library Journal, Starred

"...engaging and believable narrative voice...developed most eloquently...tender touches of the loving characters embrace both Jessie and the reader." THE BULLETIN OF THE CENTER FOR CHILDREN'S BOOKS The Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books

"... a great job of humanizing the backwoods stereotypes...family story...compelling drama...told with truth, tears, laughter, and real surprise." BOOKLIST Booklist, ALA

"distinct characters...Jessie's spirit and determination drive the plot...her cover portrait will draw readers; her voice will intrigue them." KIRKUS REVIEWS Kirkus Reviews

"Feisty, thoroughly appealing narrator...engrossing reading...authentic, resounding voice...humorous...heart-wrenching...an affecting portrait of memorable characters in trying times." PUBLISHERS WEEKLY Publishers Weekly

Product Details

Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Publication date:
Sold by:
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
File size:
396 KB
Age Range:
10 - 12 Years

Meet the Author

Shutta Crum, formerly a librarian, currently writes full time. Among other picture books, she is the author Thunder-Boomer (Clarion), which received four starred reviews, was nominated for a Cybil Award, and was an SLJ Best Book, a Smithsonian Magazine Notable Book, and an ALA Notable Book. Shutta was born in Paintsville, Kentucky, and lives with her husband in Michigan. Her website is www.shutta.com.

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Spitting Image 4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 4 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book is beyond wow i checked it out of my library at school. Even the first few pages were good
Kendally More than 1 year ago
Spitting Image by Shutta Crum was a very laid back book. It is a realistic fiction book, taking place in Baylor, Kentucky. I honestly only picked the book because of the cover; there was an interesting look to the cover, and when I read the back it sounded interesting. Jessica Bovey isn't an average 12 year old; she gets picked on by a bully and his friends that live in her neighborhood. She grows up not knowing who her dad is, and she is very surprised when she finds out who it was. In Baylor, people have drug addictions and don't have "the best" life, and one of those people is her best friend, Robert. His dad has a bad alcohol addiction, and he is afraid to take in money because his dad might steal it. As his eyesight grows weaker, he doesn't have enough money to buy new glasses. I thought the book could be better. Throughout the book I always thought something was going to happen, and it just dragged on some more. My favorite character was Baby Blue, Robert's little brother. He goes to random houses in the neighborhood to eat when he's hungry. I was disappointed at the end, where finally everything was solved in the last pages, and it just ended. Better things could have happened in the plot. My favorite thing about the book is the main struggle- Jessica finding the family of her dad's side. Although it took most of the book for her to find him, I was still surprised. I also like the main lesson of the book: Keep trying. Jessica has many struggles, but she keeps trying until she solves them. I thought the book could be better. I would only encourage people who like slow moving plots to read this book.
Guest More than 1 year ago
this is a really good book. It talks about a 12 year old girl, jessie kay bovey, who is very brave and always stands up for heself:)
Guest More than 1 year ago
Spitting Image was a terrific story with a spunky, likable main character. I read this book very quickly, it kept my interest. I would love to suggest it to young teens -up because of the mature ending.