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Loser
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Jerry Spinelli has won the Newbery Medal for "Maniac Magee" and the Newbery Honour for "Wringer".

About the Author

Jerry Spinelli's novels are recognized for their humour and poignancy and his characters and situations are often drawn from his real life experiences as the father of six children. He lives with his wife, Eileen, also a writer in Phoenixville, PA, USA.

Reviews

Spinelli (Maniac Magee; Stargirl) here enters the consciousness of the social pariah. Beginning with Donald Zinkoff's early days of invisibility and ignorant bliss ("Maybe it annoys you that he seems to be having even more fun than you, but it's a one-second thought and it's over," says the omniscient narrator in the opening chapter), the narrative follows the boy through his instant love for Satterfield Elementary School, then zeroes in on the turning point: "In fourth grade Zinkoff is discovered.... Big-kid eyes are picky. They notice things that the little-kid eyes never bothered with.... Twenty-seven classmates now turn their new big-kid eyes to Zinkoff." On field day in June, the fourth graders call him as they see him: "Each pronounces it perfectly. `Loser.' " Through the use of the omniscient narrator, Spinelli builds up to the boy's "unveiling" with examples of Zinkoff's uncontrollable giggling in first grade, his one-sided friendship with his next-door neighbor, and his forced poor-sport behavior on the soccer field when the hero's team does not win. Spinelli balances Zinkoff's mistreatment by his peers with abundant love from his family and the friendship of the quirky neighbors to whom his postman father delivers mail especially the Waiting Man who patiently anticipates his brother's return from Vietnam, and a toddler attached to a clothesline with a leash. Spinelli creates no idealistic ending here; instead, with a near tragedy, the author demonstrates the differences between those who can continue to see with the more compassionate "little-kid eyes" and those who lose sight of what is truly important. Ages 8-12. (May) Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.

Gr 4-6-Donald Zinkoff is a kid everyone will recognize-the one with the stupid laugh who cracks up over nothing, the klutz who trips over his own feet, the overly exuberant student who always raises his hand but never has the right answers. Following him from first grade to middle school, the story is not so much about how the boy changes, but rather how his classmates' perceptions of him evolve over the years. In first and second grades, his eccentricities and lack of coordination are accepted, but in third grade Zinkoff is "discovered." His classmates turn their critical eyes to him and brand him a loser. From then on, he endures the fate of so many outcasts-the last to be picked for the team, a favorite prey of bullies, and the butt of cruel comments from classmates. Despite his clumsiness and occasionally poor social skills, Zinkoff is a caring, sensitive boy with loving and supportive parents. He is remarkably good-natured about all the ostracizing and taunting, but his response is genuine. It is not navet or obliviousness that gives Zinkoff his resilient spirit-he's a kid too busy being himself to worry about what other people think of him. Although perhaps not as funny as Jack Gantos's little hellion, Joey Pigza, Zinkoff is a flawed but tough kid with an unshakable optimism that readers will find endearing. "Losers" in schools everywhere will find great comfort in this story, and the kids who would so casually brand their classmates should read it, too.-Edward Sullivan, White Pine School, TN Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.

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