Tuesday, 19 May 2009

Loser - Jerry Spinelli

After three books read and three hits, I officially declare Jerry Spinelli just my kind of writer. At the last read-a-thon I literally never put this one down till I finished it. I wanted to squeeze Donal Zucker, the "loser" of the title, at about every page. He could have been Stargirl's little brother.
He's so enthusiastic about life. He laughs uncontrollably at silly words and shouts "Yahoo!" anytime he's super happy, he gives everything he has and doesn't hold anything back. He's extremely generous and sympathetic to anybody around him. He's kind, innocent and hyperactive. He thinks sleep is the Curse of the Human Race and claims to never indulge in it.

At the beginning of the story he's starting school, and can't wait. When he runs off to his first class with his giraffe hat, you know life is not gonna be kind to him.

I pictured him wearing the hat all proud and eager to learn, and my mind raced immediately to my first day in school. I didn't have a giraffe hat, but I brought my favourite toys with me, in my lovely pink toy bag, and I just kept them with me on the desk. When the teacher objected to that because I wouldn't have any space for books and pens, I shoveled them in the space under the desk and left them there for days. At the first desk inspection I came last for having the messiest desk, and discovered two things: 1) Teachers don't like toys, and 2) Everyone else was a lot tidier than me no matter how I tried. But I still loved school. And so does Zinkoff.

So, he is the sweetest little kid, and all you want to do is give him a big hug for being adorable, but he's also clumsy and awkward, can't get an A to save his life, nor can he sing, or play an instrument, or run. And the cool thing is that he doesn't care, because he doesn't know he's not the best. He just loves doing stuff, doesn't want to be the best, doesn't want to win.
How can someone like that survive the school jungle?

I loved almost everything about this story. Loved Zinkoff's family, how supportive and understanding and caring they are. How they love him for exactly who he is and not for what he should be. I loved the minor characters, like Mr Yalowitz, one of his teachers, who puts Zinkoff in the first row because "the Z shall be first!"and who can say things like "Master Z, whenever you put pencil to paper, unspeakable things happen...Thank God for keyboards!".
I adored the "Take Donald Zinkoff to Work Day". As I said, I just loved about everything of this book (except probably the kid who collects his earwax in a bottle, I could have done without that image in my head.) so I'll just shut up and tell you to go and read it yourself.

After reading this, I reconsidered the whole competitiveness issue, and rationally decided it's a load of bullpoopy. Rationally. It still stings like hell when I realise I'm not the best at something, but then I go back and think about Zinkoff and feel a lot better :D

One last thing. When I read it, I chose my starry bookmark (made by Nymeth) for it
without thinking, and then, when I read the following passage, realised it was the perfect bookmark:

At this time in his life Zinkoff sees no difference between the stars in the sky and the stars in his mother's plastic Baggie. He believes that stars fall from the sky sometimes, and that his mother goes around collecting them like acorns. He believes she has to use heavy gloves and dark sunglasses because the fallen stars are so hot and shiny. She puts them in the freezer for forty-five minutes, and when they come out they are flat and silver and sticky on the back and ready for his shirts.
This makes him feel close to the unfallen stars left in the sky. He thinks of them as his nightlights. As he grows drowsy in bed, he wonders which is greater: the number of stars in the sky or the number of school left in his life? It's a wonderful question.

other opinions:
I just fiinished reading...
Dog year diary
You read it too? Let me know!

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Laura said...

What a nice review, it makes me want to read it! I'll keep it in mind.

Nymeth said...

I love it when the bookmark I'm using fits the book :D I always try to pick ones that will.

This book sounds excellent. I really should read Spinelli!

Michelle said...

Oh god, that review really makes me want to read this book! It's been so long since I've read anything by Spinelli, but he definately is just one of those writers that fits perfectly with readers! With me, anyway! Wonderful review.

valentina said...

Thanks Laura, I hope you do read it:)

Nymeth, I'd be really curious to know what you honestly think of his writing. I'd start with Stargirl, though :D I know some people don't get it, but it really spoke to me.

Oh thanks Michelle,I'm glad you liked my review!:) he fits perfectly with me too!

Kirsten said...

I don't think I've read any Spinelli, but this sounds like a book I'd really enjoy; thanks for the great review! The quote you chose for the bookmark connection was what truly sold me on adding it to the wish list :)

Kirsten said...

Thanks again for the recommendation; I just finished this incredible book. I'll be posting a brief review and then hosting a conversation about it on my blog sometime this summer. I'll be searching for others who have reviewed it when the time comes to invite you to come by and join in; I hope you'll consider participating!

Emily said...

I really enjoy ur reflection. I just finished reading it, but i have a little question. And that's did the little girl(Claudia) die?

valentina said...

no she didn't! they found her near her house after one hour or so. The sirens he was hearing were coming from the searching party for him!