Loser – A Book Review

Loser, a middle grade novel for ages nine to twelve was published by Harper Trophy in 2003. Loser by Jerry Spinelli is a special book. The first sentence “You grew up with a child but never noticed him” suggests that this story may be about a child with low self-esteem. The book is about a boy who truly loves himself and accepts himself for who he is despite the cruelty of his classmates.

At first, he looks like a child with ADD. Donald doesn’t like to wait for anything. He has a hard time staying still and thinks he runs faster than anyone else. He is the first to go to school every day. You might think that a kid who loves school so much would make an outstanding student. Not so for Donald Zinkhoff. His writing is sloppy, he can’t stop laughing in class when the teacher says a funny word, he’s clumsy, he can’t play the flute, “Twice during the number, Zinkhoff’s flute sounds like a pinched sister … and Zinkhoff never warnings. “

It doesn’t take much to make Donald happy. He wants to sit in the front row, but due to his last name, Zinkhoff, he is always last in everything until fourth grade when his favorite teacher reverses the order of the seats. “Yahoo” says Donald!

Donald’s progression from first to sixth grade is the journey of a child with many social problems. Most of them decrease but never go away. I kept hoping that Donald would somehow succeed, but the author didn’t have that in mind for Donald. His poor performance in sports makes him an outcast. When a race blows that costs the school the championship, the other kids name Donald Loser!

This story is more for adult readers because I don’t think many teens want to read about a 12 year old and not many 9 to 12 year olds want to read a slow action story. Middle graders will enjoy this book when they read it with adults. There’s some action at the end when Donald gets lost in a snowstorm and doesn’t even realize it.

Donald is a loser success. He may not live up to what other children and adults think he should be, but thanks to the love of his family he will survive in a difficult world.

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