Loser

I loved both Maniac Magee and Stargirl, and was delighted when I saw this new book by Jerry Spinelli in the bundle of books for review. I have a particular interest in books which look at marginalised children. Experience has taught me that authors tend to handle this topic really well or really badly. Spinelli’s treatment of his protagonist, ‘the one outside’, is very different. Loser tells the tale of Donald Zinkoff, an odd-ball child who is impervious to the taunts of those about him. Like many of the other misfits in children’s fiction who cannot find their place in the world, he finds a home in the heart of the reader. Donald is the quintessential loser of the book’s title, so that we are left in no doubt from the start that he is a misfit, will be the subject of taunts and bullying and will exasperate the most patient of adults he encounters. Spinelli has created a remarkable character in Donald Zinkoff, as he remains a little boy who has no concept of anything other than the fact that he enjoys being himself. This belief in himself is not explained or developed but rather allowed to be. Untouched by the limitations put on him by the expectations of others, Donald Zinkoff does become quite a memorable character. Marching to the sound of his own drum, he becomes the hero of the book.