Loser

( 282 )

Overview

Just like other kids, Zinkoff rides his bike, hopes for snow days, and wants to be like his dad when he grows up. But Zinkoff also raises his hand with all the wrong answers, trips over his own feet, and falls down with laughter over a word like "Jabip."

Other kids have their own word to describe him, but Zinkoff is too busy to hear it. He doesn't know he's not like everyone else. And one winter night, Zinkoff's differences show that any name ...

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Overview

Just like other kids, Zinkoff rides his bike, hopes for snow days, and wants to be like his dad when he grows up. But Zinkoff also raises his hand with all the wrong answers, trips over his own feet, and falls down with laughter over a word like "Jabip."

Other kids have their own word to describe him, but Zinkoff is too busy to hear it. He doesn't know he's not like everyone else. And one winter night, Zinkoff's differences show that any name can someday become "hero."

Even though his classmates from first grade on have considered him strange and a loser, Donald Zinkoff's optimism and exuberance and the support of his loving family do not allow him to feel that way about himself.

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Editorial Reviews

From Barnes & Noble
The Barnes & Noble Review
Loser, by Newbery Medal–winning author Jerry Spinelli, is a powerful tale about a young boy whose contagious joie de vivre outshines his endless stream of gaffes. Simply put, it’s a sure winner. From his first day at school, Donald Zinkoff stands out from the crowd. Not only does he giggle uncontrollably and wear a goofy giraffe hat, he actually loves everything about school -- his teacher, his studies, and even the extracurricular activities. And when he answers every question wrong or serves as the butt of his classmates' jokes, Donald just laughs at himself right along with everyone else. When he arrives in the fourth grade, however, everything changes as “big-kid eyes” evaluate him with a harshness he hasn’t yet experienced. When his clumsiness costs his team the championship on Field Day, he is saddled with a haunting name: Loser.

Though his newfound awareness of himself as a loser is a setback, Donald finds support in the unconditional love of his family. When Donald’s mailman father lets him spend a bunch of Sundays pretending to deliver the mail, the oddball characters Donald meets along the route open his eyes to a bigger universe. And when an unexpected tragedy reveals Donald to be far more courageous and generous of heart than ever expected, it opens the eyes of others to the true magic of this quirky little boy.

In Donald Zinkoff, Spinelli has created an endearing character whose innocent delight, patient tolerance, and courageous self-sacrifice serve as a superb example of why it’s important to see inside a person, no matter how peculiar or inept he or she may seem on the outside. For peer-conscious youngsters on either side of the popularity fence, this is a valuable lesson they can’t afford to miss. (Beth Amos)

Kathleen Odean
By the time Donald Zinkoff has reached fourth grade, the other boys have labeled him a "loser." But Donald doesn't realize it. He plows through life, clumsy, enthusiastic and sometimes courageous, cherished by his parents. Newbery Award winner Spinelli, with his characteristic exaggeration, raises questions about our emphasis on winning as he follows Donald through elementary school and into middle school. This compelling character study may inspire readers to reevaluate how they judge their fellow students and whether winning matters more than caring does.
Publishers Weekly
PW wrote in a starred review of this novel that begins with a boy's early days of invisibility and ignorant bliss, to the turning point when he is dubbed a loser, "The author demonstrates the difference between those who can see with compassionate `little-kid eyes' and those who lose sight of what is truly important." Ages 10-12 (Oct.) Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
VOYA
Really a book about the loss of innocence, Spinelli's latest creation introduces readers to Donald Zinkoff on the eve of his first day of elementary school, before he can be subjected to the eagle eyes and cruel nature of his classmates. They have a name for him: Loser. Zinkoff certainly marches to the beat of a different drummer. Although the reader will wince at the criticisms and laughter directed at him by his peers, he is oblivious and content to laugh hysterically at nonsensical words such as "Jabip" and "Jaboop" and dream of being a postal worker like his father. Take Your Kid to Work Day for Zinkoff provides quite possibly the most moving scene in a book in recent years. This novel is an offbeat, affectionate, colorful, and melancholy work, exactly what one would expect from the brains behind such masterpieces as Maniac Magee (Little Brown, 1990/VOYA December 1990) and Wringer (HarperCollins, 1997). Spinelli expertly calls to mind the utopian days before one is subjected to the opinions and mercies of other classmates, before one can be noticed, forced to learn that there is something wrong and molded into conformity. Along the way, the author uses Zinkoff to show readers another definition of the word hero, for indeed they do come in all shapes and sizes. VOYA CODES: 5Q 4P M J S (Hard to imagine it being any better written; Broad general YA appeal; Middle School, defined as grades 6 to 8; Junior High, defined as grades 7 to 9; Senior High, defined as grades 10 to 12). 2002, HarperCollins, 224p,
— Matthew Weaver
From The Critics
Loser tells the story of Zinkoff, a lovable "loser" who is neither smart enough to recognize when his exuberant behavior is inappropriate, nor competitive or worldly enough to care. Despite the teasing of his peers, Zinkoff's main goals are to have fun, explore his surroundings, and see the best in others. This is what makes Loser such a wonderful read: it celebrates the child in all of us, while at the same time it points out the problems inherent in growing up. Fortunately, Zinkoff is not alone in making his journey: his sister Polly, his 1st and 4th grade teachers, and a heroic snowplow driver all support him. His mother and father do too, which is important because there are plenty of bullies unable to appreciate what Zinkoff has to offer. Fans of Spinelli's work will enjoy this vivid and poignant, though not especially dramatic, coming-of-age tale (please do note that Zinkoff is only in 6th grade when this narrative ends). I recommend it as an excellent read-aloud, and catalyst for discussion of social and ethical issues. And as usual, Spinelli delivers. 2002, HarperCollins, 224 pp.,
— Tom Philion
School Library Journal
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 na vet 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.
Kirkus Reviews
Meet Joey Pigza's soulmate. Donald Zinkoff can't sit still, can't stop laughing, falls over his own feet, adores school and silly words and his family, is prone to throwing up due to a defective stomach valve, is impervious to peer pressure, and never frets about being perennially last in any competition just as he's last in the alphabet. Charging joyously into each day, Zinkoff baffles older kids by not responding properly to playground bullying or scorn, baffles teachers by combining eagerness to learn with an inability to produce anything but sloppy, mediocre work, and even throws his canny, loving parents for a loop sometimes. So he's a born loser, right? Not in a Spinelli novel. Readers who pay attention will come to understand after watching Zinkoff face an aggressive fourth grader on his first day of school, give up his first (and probably his last) sports trophy to console a classmate who had been on the losing team, and very nearly freeze to death on a misguided search for a missing child. Following Zinkoff from his very first foray into the front yard to middle-school sixth grade, the author of Crash (1996) and Stargirl (2000) once again provides such a steady look at a marginalized child that readers will see past limiting social categories or awkward outsides to the complex mix of past, present, and promise at the core of every individual. A masterful character portrait; here's one loser who will win plenty of hearts. (Fiction. 9-11)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780060540746
  • Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
  • Publication date: 7/10/2003
  • Edition description: First Harper Trophy Edition
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 224
  • Sales rank: 35,128
  • Age range: 8 - 12 Years
  • Product dimensions: 5.12 (w) x 7.62 (h) x 0.44 (d)

Meet the Author

Jerry Spinelli

Jerry Spinelli received the Newbery Medal for Maniac Magee and a Newbery Honor for Wringer. His other books include Smiles to Go, Loser, Space Station Seventh Grade, Who Put That Hair in My Toothbrush?, Dump Days, and Stargirl. His novels are recognized for their humor and poignancy, and his characters and situations are often drawn from his real-life experience as a father of six children. Jerry lives with his wife, Eileen, also a writer, in Wayne, Pennsylvania.

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Read an Excerpt

Chapter One

You Grow Up

You grow up with a kid but you never really notice him. He's just there -- on the street, the playground, the neighborhood. He's part of the scenery, like the parked cars and the green plastic cans on trash day.

You pass through school -- first grade, second grade -- there he is, going along with you. You're not friends, you're not enemies. You just cross paths now and then. Maybe at the park playground one day you look up and there he is on the other end of the seesaw. Or it's winter and you sled to the bottom of Halftank Hill, and you're trudging back up and there he goes zipping down, his arms out like a swan diver, screaming his head off. And 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.

You don't even know his name.

And then one day you do. You hear someone say a name, and somehow you just know that's who the name belongs to, it's that kid.

Zinkoff.

Loser. Copyright © by Jerry Spinelli. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.
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Reading Group Guide

Introduction:

Loser is a tender story about Donald Zinkoff, a young character who demonstrates great self-acceptance and who is not afraid to fail. With the encouragement of his family, he learns to approach life with a positive spirit and to enjoy all that it has to offer. Donald faces the familiar challenges of elementary-aged children—disagreeable teachers, peer pressure, social conformity, and competition. By maintaining a strong sense of self through his experiences, Donald Zinkoff teaches us all about important and unforgettable lessons of self esteem and happiness.

Questions For Discussion:

  1. Donald Zinkoff's mother gives him a silver star after his first day of elementary school and says "One thousand congratulations to you." Why? What are some other examples of how Donald's family demonstrates their love to him? Give examples of how their support helps Donald to develop his self-esteem.
  2. Donald admires his teacher Miss Meeks because she calls her students "young citizens" and gives a famous opening day speech to her first grade class. Reread her speech on pages 13–17. What are Miss Meeks's attitudes about school and learning? How does Donald make his own learning adventurous, both at school and at home?
  3. Why do you think "Take Your Kid To Work Day" was such a meaningful day for Donald? How does Mr. Zinkoff prepare to make the day special for Donald? What are the most important things that Donald learns about his father's work when they spend the day together?
  4. Donald experiences being a winner when every player on his Titans soccer team receives a trophy. While he isvery pleased with the trophy, he decides to give it to his friend Andrew. How do you think Donald feels after giving his trophy away? What is special about Donald's behavior as a winner, and how does it challenge the idea that winning is best?
  5. In school, Donald's classmates notice and comment upon his unique behavior and brand him a "loser." How does Donald respond when he is teased? Our experiences are affected by the meaning we give to them. Think about an example in your own life when you refused to accept a negative comment from another. (If you cannot think of an example, try it out sometime!)
  6. In the fifth grade, Donald's classmates discourage him from participating in Field Day. How does spending the day with the old woman on Willow Street help him to feel better about this rejection? Name other examples from LOSER where Donald distracts himself from a negative situation. Do you think this behavior makes him more or less happy? Why?
  7. In the final scene Donald wants to play ball with a group of his classmates, and is the last kid to be chosen for a team. On page 217, his classmate Bonce thinks "… [this kid] doesn't know that…he's only going to be ignored. Or embarrassed. Or hurt. He doesn't know that he's a klutz. Doesn't know he's out of his league. Doesn't know a leftover, doesn't stare down a chooser. Doesn't know he's supposed to look down at his shoes or up at the sky and wish he could disappear, because that's what he is, a leftover, the last kid left." Why do you think Bonce eventually invites Zinkoff to play on his team?

About The Author:

Jerry Spinelli is the author of Maniac Magee, winner of the 1991 Newbery Medal, and Wringer, named a Newbery Honor Book in 1998. He went to Gettysburg College and Johns Hopkins University. He and his wife, Eileen, also a writer of children's books, have seven children. Jerry Spinelli's books are funny and true to life. Whenever students ask him where he gets his ideas, he replies, "From you. You're the funny ones." Spinelli enjoys writing about the adventure in the typical experiences of children and young people.

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4
( 282 )
Rating Distribution

5 Star

(160)

4 Star

(70)

3 Star

(21)

2 Star

(14)

1 Star

(17)

Your Rating:

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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 284 Customer Reviews
  • Posted April 1, 2010

    Book Review of Loser

    Book Review

    By SeungJin Han

    Recently, I finished a book called Loser, by Jerry Spinelli. It had an interesting plot that was simple yet enjoyable. The writer used different elements to pull off this lively book.
    The story is just basically about the life of Donald Zinkoff, a loser who lives in a small suburban city. It tells about what happens at his school and what he does at home. So there are several exciting events, such as him delivering the mail with his dad, messing up field day, befriending Hector Binns for a while, and receiving his first but last A. However, near the last half of the book, there is one more emphasized event. A girl named Claudia goes missing during the night of a very snowy day, and Zinkoff sets out to find her.
    Loser had great characters, an amazing plot, and an excellent setting. The reader will surely enjoy Zinkoff unknowingly growing, changing, and developing into a normal kid who can fit in. This book will give out several giggles and laughs.

    34 out of 39 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted March 18, 2012

    I love this book

    This book is so funny but when donald zinkoff grows up it gets more interesting. I totally recomend it!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    19 out of 29 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted March 26, 2009

    Loser

    Have you ever seen or heard about a loser that loves school? A boy named Donald Zinkoff's love about the school is more than red, hot, flames of fire even though he is a loser. This story takes place in a elementary school which Donald goes to. The sidewalks are ruled by the 4th and 5th grade. This book is just about Donald's life through 1rst to 6th grade in the elementary school.

    The big problem is that Donald loves school too much even though he gets all teased and bullied by the older kids or his classmates. Donald still gets to get friends but always gets in trouble. He's just a guy that never wins.

    You may think Donald will just stay as a loser through graduation day, middle school, and high school. The answer is no. He changes from a Loser to a Winner on the very last day. You might want to know how Donald changes to a winner from a Loser. If you want to know, check this book out. I don't highly recommend this book to you because it's just a story about a Loser's life through 1rst to 6th grade. Though Donald faces many situations and changes to a Winner (hero) from a Loser. If u want to know how he changes then check this book out!

    17 out of 26 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 2, 2008

    I Also Recommend:

    Loser

    I'm a 6th grade student from Glendale, Arizona. I read Loser by Jerry Spinelli as one of my five books that I had to read for the second quarter. It was a really good book. When I would have to stop reading it, I just couldn't put it down. It really grabbed my attention. Loser is definitely one of my favorite books. It's about a boy named Donald Zinkoff. He's outgoing, brave, and is also really funny. The book didn't say when it took place, but it probably took place in the present. When the book starts, he's starting first grade. By the end of the book, Donald is in middle school. During these years, Donald has many adventures. A part that I really liked reading was when it was Take Your Kid to Work Day. Donald got to help deliver mail with his dad because his dad is a mailman. His dad didn't want him delivering real mail, though, so Donald wrote letters to all the people in his neighborhood and delivered those instead. One woman that he delivered mail to would always call him "Mailman" every time she would see him. Another part that I liked was Donald's first day of school. He had a really tall hat that looked like a giraffe that he got from the zoo. He wore it on his first day of school. Some older kids were bullying him and took his hat. They were rubbing it in the dirt, but Donald just laughed along with the boys. They finally gave up on trying to pick on him. I like the way Donald reacted because it showed that he's brave when it comes to bullies. I can connect this book to my own life because I'm a kid like Donald. I have to face bullies and stand up for myself just like Donald did in the book. I can connect this book to the world because there are a lot of scary things in the world and people can stand up for themselves, but still be kind, just like Donald. Loser, by Jerry Spinelli is a great book.

    13 out of 20 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 11, 2012

    Loser

    This is an amazing book. Anyone who doesnt like this book

    either didnt understand it or just never read it and are listining to people who didnt understand it. Anyway the point is that this is one of the greatest books i ever read.

    10 out of 13 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 3, 2012

    Great

    This is a really great book:)

    9 out of 16 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 13, 2012

    Its great book!!!

    I couldnt put it down after i started reading loser its just that great and funny of a book!!

    8 out of 13 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted February 12, 2012

    Auwsom

    Recremended for all ages!!!!!!:)

    7 out of 12 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted February 11, 2012

    AWESOME BOOK FOR A 10 YR OLD

    Amazing book finish at my pubic library in 2 days. It will grab on to you likke posion lvy

    6 out of 12 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted February 11, 2012

    I didnt finish yet but good do far

    6 out of 13 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted January 17, 2012

    Wonderful"

    Great book! Luv it.

    4 out of 5 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 15, 2012

    Good book

    I read this for a book report and i loved it. Recommended for ages 9-13

    4 out of 5 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted September 12, 2010

    Great book!

    Loser is a book about a young, awkward "loser" named Donald Zinkoff. It tells of his adventures from first through sixth grade. It's everything the average kid faces, such as snow days, the curious mystery of the cellar monster, and silly words like "jabip", but Zinkoff has his own quirky differences- like, an upside down stomach valve, a three foot tall giraffe hat, and the urge to yell, "YAHOO!".
    I would definitely say the reading level of this book is between fourth and sixth grade, but Zinkoff is a character anyone can love. He's goofy, yet lovable, and I can guarantee he will make you smile. It teaches the important lessons of growing up, in a fun, cute story. Kudos to Jerry Spinelli, because this is definitely his best.

    4 out of 6 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted January 12, 2013

    Cool

    Best book ever! :^)

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted January 25, 2012

    Boring

    I Had to read this for school and in my opinion it's extremly boring and pointless

    3 out of 10 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted April 29, 2009

    This book rocks the house dawg!!!!

    Number one: Zinkoff is so like hilarious!!!!!
    Great book.
    If you havent read it you should or you are making a big mistake!
    Thank you!
    YOur books are awesome jerry spinelli!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
    keep writing!!

    3 out of 7 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 9, 2003

    The best book ever written

    i loved reading loser it was so exciting but at the end J.S (the auther) had to leave us hanging. it was sad because zinkoff didn't know every on e was calling him a loser.

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 27, 2013

    BEST EVER

    SO AWESOME!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!:D

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 3, 2012

    Love it!

    This is a sweet and funny book that people of all ages will love it. I give it FIVE stars . .
    O

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted March 20, 2012

    Loser by: Jerry Spinelli

    For my literature class, everyone had to read a Jerry Spinelli book. I choose this one because I wanted to see whats would happen to Zinkoff. Here's a sneak peek of what happens to Zinkoff.
    Zinkoff in multiple different chapters is moving up from grades.... In chapter 1 it's the first day of Kindergarten and Zinkoff is wearing his new hat he got from the zoo. Which is a giraffe hat, but someone steals it and says to the teacher that Zinkoff stole my hat. This is all I am going to tell you becasue it will give the whole thing away.
    Everyone can connect with this book!
    Jerry Spinelli writes in Pennsylvania and he also includes in one of his stories a middle school called Lionville Middle School.
    I would highly recommend this book at any age!

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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