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by Jerry Spinelli

Published by Joanna Cotler Books/HarperCollins, 2002
218 pages
ISBN: 0-06-000193-3

Ages 9 - 12

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 either social skills or 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 him. CCBC categories: Fiction For Children; Fiction For Young Adults; Understanding Oneself And Others.  © Cooperative Children's Book Center

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