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4.2 296
by Jerry Spinelli

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From renowned Newbery-winning author Jerry Spinelli comes an incredible story about how not fitting in might just lead to an incredible life.

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


From renowned Newbery-winning author Jerry Spinelli comes an incredible story about how not fitting in might just lead to an incredible life.

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."

With some of his finest writing to date and great wit and humor, Jerry Spinelli creates a story about a boy's individuality surpassing the need to fit in and the genuine importance of failure. As readers follow Zinkoff from first through sixth grade—making this a perfect classroom read—and watch his character develop, it becomes impossible not to identify with and root for him through failures and triumphs.

Supports the Common Core State Standards

Editorial Reviews

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.
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
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)

Product Details

HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date:
Edition description:
First Harper Trophy Edition
Sales rank:
Product dimensions:
5.12(w) x 7.62(h) x 0.44(d)
Age Range:
8 - 12 Years

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.


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

Meet the Author

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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Loser 4.2 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 296 reviews.
EsJay_Da_Aussum More than 1 year ago
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.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book is so funny but when donald zinkoff grows up it gets more interesting. I totally recomend it!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I couldnt put it down after i started reading loser its just that great and funny of a book!!
Johnny_Boy_Ruler More than 1 year ago
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!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Best book ever! :^)
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Recremended for all ages!!!!!!:)
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Great book! Luv it.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I read this for a book report and i loved it. Recommended for ages 9-13
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This is a really great book:)
hoodreader More than 1 year ago
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.
Guest More than 1 year ago
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.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
SO AWESOME!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!:D
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This is a sweet and funny book that people of all ages will love it. I give it FIVE stars . . O
121999AM More than 1 year ago
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!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Awesome book
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book is the best it was in my school library and i took it and read the whole thing so i saw it in the nook library and read it its a wonderful book
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I really enjoyed this cute little novel
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Some parts are sad and some parts are boring, but overall a good book.
PATRICIA HANNAN More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book is really good and the life that this kid goes through is not what you will expect from a regular kid. Knowing that he is different and the way he puts his self and the way the other characters react, it will have you laughing.
Sira Rampersad More than 1 year ago
I think this is a good book for kids in Elemantry school who is having trouble fitting in,so that's why I give this book 5 stars.
David Martin More than 1 year ago
I love this book it is about a little boy named zinkoff and his years of life through kindergarten to six grade and he is a remarkiable kid energized and ready to learn
JJ Mahoney More than 1 year ago
Great auther