Spinelli, Jerry. 2002. Loser. Read by Steve Buscemi. Harper Children's Audio.
Somehow, I've managed to live this long without having read Jerry Spinelli. This was my first encounter with his large body of work. I downloaded the mp3 version of Loser, read by Steve Buscemi. It took me some time to adapt to Spinelli's direct writing style,
"At exactly 10 A.M. Zinkoff bursts onto the playground with the other Satterfield first-, second- and third-graders. For the first minute he is disappointed. He expected recess to be something different, something new. It turns out to be simply free time. Recess turns out to be just another name for life as he has always known it. Only shorter. His first recess lasted six years. This one is fifteen minutes. He means to make the most of it."
After I got used to his unadorned, yet compelling prose, I realized how perfect it is for a story about a boy, Zinkoff, who is also simple, direct, unadorned and compelling. Zinkoff is the perfect hero. What may pass for simpleness to others is actually a buoyant, positive and uncomplicated disposition. No matter what befalls the sometimes hapless Zinkoff, he is never beaten - never the "loser."
Loser follows Zinkoff from his first day of school through his graduation from middle school with all the usual trials and tribulations that occur in grade school. Although I listened to this book, I later had to get a print copy to note two of the lines that most affected me. The listener can almost remember the first feeling of freedom that comes with being at school away from family and the first feeling of sadness in realizing that children are not always kind. When the children begin to discover that Zinkoff is perhaps not as smart or as athletically gifted as other students Spinelli writes, "as with all discoveries, it is the eye and not the object that changes." How true.
Later, when Zinkoff befriends a young child in the neighborhood, he comes to a conclusion,
"and Zinkoff saw in that moment something that he had no words for. He saw that a kid runs to be found and jumps to be caught. That's what being a kid is: found, caught,"
simple, yet profound.
I found myself rooting for Zinkoff every step of the way and he did not disappoint me. It is an honest story, one in which the hero can also be a misfit. Steve Buscemi's delivery of the book was excellent. I would recommend this book for boys from 4th to 6th grade.