by Jerry Spinelli
I don't know if many child characters have touched me as much as "Zinkoff" in Jerry Spinelli's Loser
The book follows the boy's progress from first through sixth grade--a clumsy, un-athletic child, always picked last for games, getting mediocre grades, sloppy in his penmanship and flute playing, and not particularly liked by anyone--yet a child with a heart of gold, who is ever so cheerful, brave, and good-hearted. Somehow he loves going to school and learning, though he isn't really good at anything except riding his bicycle and playing Monopoly. He's not even good at being bullied, because he is so dim about what is going on that he keeps trying to share obligingly in other people's happiness even when they WANT him to cry like a sissy.
A child who has trouble controlling his laughter (even just being happy makes him laugh), who yells "Yahoo!" a lot and who throws up a lot because of a backward valve in his stomach, his only fear is the darkness of the cellar, and the boredom of missing school. At one point, on a cold winter's night, he wanders around looking for a little lost girl (who, meanwhile, has been found, but he doesn't know it) for SEVEN HOURS and is finally found, himself, on the point of freezing to death.
The novel does not have a happy ending, but it isn't a bad ending either...it's not really an ending, but it carries the hint that things might turn out OK for this special, wonderful boy. Read it at your own risk. You might fall in love with little Donald Zinkoff.
Recommended Age: 10+
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