by Jerry Spinelli Joanna Cotler Books, 2002 Review by Christian Perring, Ph.D. on May 29th 2002
Loser is an unusual book, because it does not just
describe the life of a boy, but reads like a case history.The book starts with Donald Zinkoff in first
grade, and takes him up until sixth grade.From the very start, its clear that Zinkoff, as he is called, is rather
different from other children.He
insists on wearing a giraffe hat to school on his first day, he makes more
noise than other children, he gets the giggles more often, and he also has
trouble with writing properly.He gets
overexcited and forgets what he is meant to be doing.He gets picked on at recess, but he is too good-natured and
trusting to really be upset by those experiences.As he gets older, it turns out he is hopeless at most sports, and
he is always the last to be picked when choosing sides for teams.Other children call him loser, because he
often loses the game for the side he is on.
change in grade, we meet a new teacher for that grade, and we see how their
different styles fit well or badly with Zinkoffs personality.We see some teachers are enthusiastic and
caring, while others are not.We also
see how different children react to him as he gets older, he becomes less and
less popular, until he does not really have any friends at all.One day he realizes this and makes friends
with one of his classmates, Hector, who also does not have any friends.Hector is always cleaning out his ear with a
paperclip, and he tells Zinkoff that he plans to make a candle out his
earwax.But the friendship does not
last, and Zinkoff does not understand why Hector does not want to be his
friend.But this does not trouble
Zinkoff, because he mostly has an optimistic view of life.He likes school and he never realizes that
he is unpopular.
episode at the end of the book happens when Zinkoff goes off in the snow to
help look for a lost girl, and stays out there by himself for five hours.He wanders around in the snow going from
street to street, looking for the girl, but he never really gets worried.He is so lost in his own world that he is
always entertained, never bored or worried.These qualities might possibly make him interesting to other children,
although he will probably always be different from other people.
to identify with Zinkoff, and although he has a heart of gold, he does not
really understand much about other people.But Loser does help the reader see that although Zinkoff is
different, he is an interesting person and could be a good friend.The overview of the boys early life might
also appeal to children who are budding psychologists.
Buscemi reads the unabridged
audiobook.He reads it well,
and his style is well suited to the tale of an eccentric boy, but does not
Perring, Ph.D., is Chair of the Philosophy Department at Dowling College,
Long Island. He is editor of Metapsychology Online Review. His main
research is on philosophical issues in psychiatry. He is especially interested
in exploring how philosophers can play a greater role in public life, and he is
keen to help foster communication between philosophers, mental health
professionals, and the general public.
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