by Jerry Spinelli
Donald Zinkoff is so enthusiastic about starting school that he frequently jumps up, pumps his fist in the air, and yells out “Yahoo!” from his seat in the very back row. While his awkward exuberance is seen as rather charming in first grade, by third grade it makes him stand out as different to his classmates and teachers. Zinkoff’s utter lack of social skills and athletic prowess earn him a nickname by fourth grade: Loser. In spite of his loving family and a terrific, understanding fourth grade teacher, the nickname marks him as a social outcast at school, not bullied so much as completely excluded. By the end of fifth grade, he nearly gives into defeat, skipping school to avoid the embarrassment of participating in the races during Field Day. Spinelli’s unflinching portrayal of six years in the life of a kid who’s painfully different offers no easy answers or sugar-coated resolutions. The author’s detached, almost breezy tone, allows readers to see Zinkoff from both the inside and the outside. Sometimes funny, sometimes sad, and always provocative, this original novel is sure to open discussion among upper elementary-school-aged kids, whether they are like Zinkoff themselves or prone to teasing kids like Zinkoff. (Ages 9-12)
CCBC Choices 2003 . © Cooperative Children's Book Center, Univ. of Wisconsin - Madison, 2003. Used with permission.
Just like other kids, Zinkoff rides his bike, hopes for snow days, and wants to be like his dad when he grows up. But Zinkoff also raises his hand with all the wrong answers, trips over his own feet, and falls down with laughter over a word like "Jabip."
Other kids have their own word to describe him, but Zinkoff is too busy to hear it. He doesn't know he's not like everyone else. And one winter night, Zinkoff's differences show that any name can someday become "hero."
Publisher description retrieved from Google Books.