Summary and book reviews of Loser by Jerry Spinelli

Loser
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  • Hardcover: May 2002,
    224 pages.
    Paperback: Aug 2003,
    224 pages.

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Book Summary

There are winners everywhere .... The sidewalks. The backyards. The alleyways. The playgrounds ...

Except for Zinkoff. Zinkoff never wins.

But Zinkoff doesn't notice. Neither do the other pups.

Not yet.

Zinkoff is like all kids -- running, playing, riding his bike. Hoping for snow days, wanting to be his dad when he grows up.

Zinkoff is not like the other kids -- raising his hand with all the wrong answers, tripping over his own feet, falling down with laughter over a word like "Jabip." The kids have their own word to describe him, but Zinkoff is too busy to hear it.

Once again, Newbery Medal-winning author Jerry Spinelli uses great wit and humor to create the unique story of Zinkoff as he travels from first through sixth grades. Loser is a touching book about the human spirit, the importance of failure, and how any name can someday be replaced with "hero."

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&#...

Please be aware that this discussion guide may contain spoilers!
Loser is a tender story about Donald Zinkoss, 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? ...
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Reviews

BookBrowse

A wonderful, thoughtful book. "Popular" teens who believe being part of the group means excluding others may not appreciate Loser, but if they can bring themselves to read it they might find an appreciation for those lesser mortals who aren't part of the 1st division cliques but are sometimes better people because of this. Particularly recommended for those who've enjoyed other works by Spinelli such as Stargirl.  

Media Reviews
Publishers Weekly

Spinelli (Maniac Magee; Stargirl) here enters the consciousness of the social pariah ... he creates no idealistic ending here; instead, with a near tragedy, the author demonstrates the differences between those who can continue to see with the more compassionate little-kid eyes and those who lose sight of what is truly important.

Kirkus Reviews

[Spinelli] 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.

Reader Reviews
Lauren

Loser
Loser is by far the best book I've ever read. I would read it again and again; this book never gets old. I would recommend this book to anyone. This book fills your heart with joy.

sarah

Its a ok book
This book is about a person who has difficulties in learning. Its a book about a person who is always made fun of and laughed at not laugh with. Even though its kind of boring it has a point . : )

jc

boring
I like most of Spinelli's books, but this one had no plot. It was just telling the tale of some loser kid, and had no beginning or end. Only read it if you are a loser and can relate to this weird guy, which no one can.

Melissa

Didn't like
The book Loser was really boring. It kept changing subjects. Like all of a sudden his mom has a baby out of nowhere. I couldn't relate to Donald at all or how it was written. I would not recommend this book to people who like action books. It is ...   Read More

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