Thursday, April 13, 2017

Loser by Jerry Spinelli

Books like Loser are very hard to read - emotionally - yet you will find yourself turning the pages perhaps, as I did, all in one sitting.  You will know early in the story, early in his life, Donald Zinkoff is destined to fail, to suffer awful bullying, to be utterly confused by other people. They even name him loser.  Zinkoff is almost oblivious to this pain but readers will feel it and feel it keenly.

"In many ways that teacher Biswell can see, the Z boy is a shambles.  ... He is even at odds with his own body. ... Hardly a day goes by when he does not fall flat on his face for no apparent reason."

Donald is not picked for sport teams, he accidentally ruins the class team's chance of winning on the school sport day, he is totally out of sync in the school band, he only scores low marks in class and he has nightmare handwriting but his parents love him unconditionally and, mostly, he does manage to embrace life despite the little chinks that appear from time to time.  I think many children should meet Zinkoff and perhaps walk a mile or two in his shoes - this might make our world a kinder place.

I think this is also an important book for teachers.  Spinelli paints a harsh picture of some teachers who cannot cope with this special boy but luckily in Year 4 he meets the wonderful Mr Yalowitz.

Loser is not a new book - it was first published in 2002.  I will share it with one of our teachers who is planning a unit of work around the book Wonder.  Loser seems better suited to her middle primary group.  You can read a sample of the story here.

I do like the honest writing style of Jerry Spinelli - especially Stargirl and Jake and Lilly.

Here are some reviews with more plot details :

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