by Spinelli, Jerry

Zinkoff is unlike other kids in school and so doesn't worry about coming in last place or always having the wrong answers, despite the teasing and comments he gets from those around him, in a tale about maintaining individuality amidst pressures of fitting in with the crowd. Teacher's Guide available. Reprint.

Gr. 3-6. Poor Donald Zinkoff. What a loser-messy, clumsy, slow. And he's giggly-an all-purpose laugher, whether it's appropriate or not. Poor kid! He can't win for losing. And everybody knows it. Everybody except Donald, that is. As his second-grade teacher wrote on the back of his report card, Donald "is one happy child! And he certainly does love school!" Donald, it seems, loves everything; he's a sunshine bottle. Using a present-tense, omniscient narrative voice, Spinelli charts Donald's star-crossed course-from his troubled first day of school to an act of heroism that arguably earns him acceptance in sixth grade. It's impossible to dislike sunny, sweet-spirited Donald, and readers will doubtless be pleased by his victory-even though many will find it hard to believe that a normal child could be so relentlessly oblivious to his environment. Ultimately, this nagging question of credibility compromises the success of an otherwise fast-paced, engaging story. ((Reviewed May 15, 2002)) Copyright 2002 Booklist Reviews

Meet Joey Pigza's soulmate. Donald Zinkoff can't sit still, can't stop laughing, falls over his own feet, adores school and silly words and his family, is prone to throwing up due to a defective stomach valve, is impervious to peer pressure, and never frets about being perennially last in any competition just as he's last in the alphabet. Charging joyously into each day, Zinkoff baffles older kids by not responding properly to playground bullying or scorn, baffles teachers by combining eagerness to learn with an inability to produce anything but sloppy, mediocre work, and even throws his canny, loving parents for a loop sometimes. So he's a born loser, right? Not in a Spinelli novel. Readers who pay attention will come to understand after watching Zinkoff face an aggressive fourth grader on his first day of school, give up his first (and probably his last) sports trophy to console a classmate who had been on the losing team, and very nearly freeze to death on a misguided search for a missing child. Following Zinkoff from his very first foray into the front yard to middle-school sixth grade, the author of Crash (1996) and Stargirl (2000) once again provides such a steady look at a marginalized child that readers will see past limiting social categories or awkward outsides to the complex mix of past, present, and promise at the core of every individual. A masterful character portrait; here's one loser who will win plenty of hearts. (Fiction. 9-11) Copyright Kirkus 2002 Kirkus/BPI Communications.All rights reserved

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