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Jerry Spinelli's novel, LOSER, details the childhood of Donald Zinkoff, focusing on his life from the first through sixth grades. Most readers will relate to either knowing or being a Donald Zinkoff at some point in their lives. Zinkoff is usually the last person picked for athletic teams, his flute consistently hits the wrong note during concerts, and he is occasionally too eager at the wrong times.

First grade is when Zinkoff is introduced to school. He loves it, even though he is always seated in the rear of the classroom because his teacher sits students alphabetically. But Zinkoff hits his low point in fifth grade, when his team does not want him to participate in that year's field day because of his horrible performance during last year's proceedings.

Sixth grade is Zinkoff's first year of Middle School, where he reconnects with his former neighbor from second grade, Andrew. Andrew has changed his identity to become "Drew", a sixth grader who has confidence in the crowded halls and a cell phone in his book bag.

This chance encounter sort of clues Zinkoff in as to how much of a difference there is between him and his peers. Even though they consider him to be a loser, he's not; in fact, Zinkoff has a heart of gold. This is shown through his interactions with his parents and the lonely, elderly lady in his neighborhood, as well as the hours he spends looking for a little girl from his neighborhood who becomes lost in a snowstorm.

Readers will like Zinkoff and enjoy how much pleasure he receives from the simplest of activities, from spending the day with his dad pretending to deliver mail, to biking all over his neighborhood and checking on the waiting man. After seeing Zinkoff's consistently positive attitude and the level at which he tries, readers will want Zinkoff to become part of the in-crowd among his peers. While this does not happen, the book ends on an optimistic note, which seems fitting for Zinkoff's positive philosophy on life. LOSER may inspire readers to be a little more understanding towards the "Zinkoffs" in their lives.

Reviewed by Melissa A. Martin on July 29, 2003

by Jerry Spinelli

  • Publication Date: July 29, 2003
  • Paperback: 224 pages
  • Publisher: HarperCollins
  • ISBN-10: 0060540745
  • ISBN-13: 9780060540746