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Losers, Inc.

Losers, Inc.

2.5 2
by Claudia Mills

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Ethan Winfield has never been an academic or athletic star like his older brother, Peter. But does that make him a failure? Of course not. Still, Ethan and his best friend, Julius Zimmerman, decide that they qualify to found an exclusive club: Losers, Inc.

No sooner have they done this, however, than both boys fall in love with the new student teacher. Ethan


Ethan Winfield has never been an academic or athletic star like his older brother, Peter. But does that make him a failure? Of course not. Still, Ethan and his best friend, Julius Zimmerman, decide that they qualify to found an exclusive club: Losers, Inc.

No sooner have they done this, however, than both boys fall in love with the new student teacher. Ethan knows right away that to impress Ms. Gunderson he has to excel. Instead of reading the shortest book for his report, he has to read the longest. Instead of working with Julius on the worst project for the science fair, he has to make the best one--alone.

Unfortunately, it isn't Ms. Gunderson who falls for Ethan, but Lizzie Archer, class nerd. The teasing is unbearable! So without regard for Lizzie's feelings--and over Julius's objections--Ethan helps hatch a plot to prove that he's not Lizzie's boyfriend. The result is that even as he reports on a book that's longer than any Peter read in the sixth grade, and prepares a potentially winning science project, Ethan feels that he doesn't deserve anyone's love--not Ms. Gunderson's, not Lizzie's, not Julius's, not his own.

Claudia Mills, creator of Dinah Seabrooke (Dynamite Dinah, Dinah for President, Dinah in Love, Dinah Forever) and other overachievers, portrays a boy who needs a reason to strive, finds one, then realizes that success isn't enough. Smart, funny, and down to earth, this hero engages and entertains as he struggles mightily to grow up.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Ethan Winfield is so sure the world is stacked against him that he keeps a daily report called "Life Isn't Fair: A Proof." The untalented younger brother of perfect Peter, he is unpopular and a bad student, and so, with his woebegone best friend, Julius, he forms the club Losers, Inc. But sixth grade has some surprises planned for Ethan that will knock that big chip off his shoulder. Mills (Dinah Forever) possesses sensitive insights into the familiar middle-school anxiety of fitting in, and she couches them in a wittily empathetic narrative. As the story unfolds, she effectively describes the mix of wrenching envy and pride with which Ethan regards Peter, a sports star and straight-A student. She also captures the difficulty Ethan's parents have as they bend over backwards to be "fair" to both sons. Though there's no triumphant ending for Ethan, he is transformed by his own actions. Funny, lively and hopeful, this is certain to strike a chord with the target audience. Ages 8-12. (Apr.)
Children's Literature - Dori Butler
Sixth graders, Ethan Winfield and Julius Zimmerman have formed a club. They call themselves Losers, Inc. The way Ethan sees it, the universe has something against him and Julius. He even keeps track of all the unfair things that happen to the two of them in a book called Life Isn't Fair, A Proof. It's easy for Ethan to feel like a loser around his perfect older brother, Peter. Peter is so perfect that he's even nice to Ethan, which makes it hard to hate him. Losers, Inc. is Ethan's defense. He takes pride in being a loser. But then the beautiful Grace Gunderson becomes Ethan and Julius's student teacher. Both boys fall in love with her. Ethan suddenly wants to do his best on things. He wants to impress Ms. Gunderson. He wants to be "worthy" of her. So he decides to do a really special science fair project. He even decides to do his book report on a 422-page book instead of the bare minimum 100-page book. But Ethan's true test of worthiness comes when teacher's pet, Lizzie Archer (AKA the Lizard) falls in love with him. Will Ethan go along with his classmates' cruelty toward Lizzie, or will he stand up for her? And if he stands up for her, will everyone think he likes her as much as she likes him? This humorous book about sixth grade relationships and first love will appeal to both boys and girls. The characters are especially well drawn and the situations ring true. Claudia Mills knows her sixth grade audience very well.
School Library Journal
Gr 4-6Twelve-year-old Ethan Winfield thinks life is unfair. His older brother is a top student and eighth-grade basketball star at their Colorado middle school, while he prefers low-level reading books and has little aptitude for sports. When his best friend, Julius, suggests they form a club called Losers, Inc., Ethan is ready for membership, making a game of the quest for super-loser status. However, with the appearance of Ms. Gunderson, a beautiful student teacher who will help the sixth-graders prepare quality science-fair projects, Ethan comes to realize that he has no desire to do badly. In fact, his crush unleashes an unfamiliar determination to succeed that both confuses and energizes him, putting a strain on his friendship with Julius. As Ethan begins on an original and hopefully prize-winning project, he is pestered by a classmate, Lizzie Archer, who sends him love poems. He takes part in a scam to trick her into applying to a bogus poetry contest of which she will be the sole winner, but later rues his dishonesty and cruelty as he strives to be worthy of his idol, Ms. Gunderson. Pacing and readability are strengths in this third-person tale with a comfortable mix of adolescent angst and decency. The characters are believable, and even the eccentric and intellectual Lizzie, whose unpopularity overshadows her human vulnerabilities, is portrayed sympathetically. An appealing mix of classroom scenes, basketball action, and tentative steps toward maturity.Susan W. Hunter, Riverside Middle School, Springfield, VT
Kirkus Reviews
An unusual look at a good kid trying to stay good in the face of the pressures of early adolescence. Ethan and his best friend, Julius, have always taken pride in their mediocrity. Unlike his perfect older brother, Peter, Julius does the least he can get away with, and gets as much in return. When a beautiful student teacher joins his class, Ethan wants to impress her by excelling, which alienates Julius and makes Lizzie, the despised class poet, fall in love with him. To discourage her, Ethan reluctantly participates in a cruel prank. Mills (Dinah Forever, 1995, etc.) keeps the story firmly grounded in realistic concerns and events: Ethan gives it his best but doesn't win the science fair; Lizzie's poetry is pretty good but always childlike; Peter is popular for a good reason—he's genuinely nice and works hard. Best of all, despite Julius's defensive attempts to play the loser, he is a friend to hold on to.

Ethan's thoughtful struggle to grow up while hanging on to his basic decency makes for an involving, often poignant, always satisfying story.

Product Details

Farrar, Straus and Giroux
Publication date:
West Creek Middle School Series , #1
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File size:
176 KB
Age Range:
8 - 12 Years

Meet the Author

Claudia Mills is a highly regarded author of books for children, mainly middle-grade novels. Her most recent novel, Dinah Forever, was closely analyzed by The Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books in its "The Big Picture" review, and was among the list of "Bulletin Blue Ribbons 1995." According to a starred review in School Library Journal, "As in previous books, Mills is particularly effective in her creation of complex relationships between characters."

Claudia Mills teaches philosophy at the University of Colorado in Boulder, where she lives with her husband and their two sons.

Claudia Mills is the acclaimed author of many books for children. She lives in Boulder, Colorado.

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