LOSER

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)

Pub Date: May 1, 2002

ISBN: 0-06-000193-3

Page Count: 224

Publisher: HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2002

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However the compelling fitness of theme and event and the apt but unexpected imagery (the opening sentences compare the...

TUCK EVERLASTING

At a time when death has become an acceptable, even voguish subject in children's fiction, Natalie Babbitt comes through with a stylistic gem about living forever. 

Protected Winnie, the ten-year-old heroine, is not immortal, but when she comes upon young Jesse Tuck drinking from a secret spring in her parents' woods, she finds herself involved with a family who, having innocently drunk the same water some 87 years earlier, haven't aged a moment since. Though the mood is delicate, there is no lack of action, with the Tucks (previously suspected of witchcraft) now pursued for kidnapping Winnie; Mae Tuck, the middle aged mother, striking and killing a stranger who is onto their secret and would sell the water; and Winnie taking Mae's place in prison so that the Tucks can get away before she is hanged from the neck until....? Though Babbitt makes the family a sad one, most of their reasons for discontent are circumstantial and there isn't a great deal of wisdom to be gleaned from their fate or Winnie's decision not to share it. 

However the compelling fitness of theme and event and the apt but unexpected imagery (the opening sentences compare the first week in August when this takes place to "the highest seat of a Ferris wheel when it pauses in its turning") help to justify the extravagant early assertion that had the secret about to be revealed been known at the time of the action, the very earth "would have trembled on its axis like a beetle on a pin." (Fantasy. 9-11)

Pub Date: Nov. 1, 1975

ISBN: 0312369816

Page Count: 164

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: April 13, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 1975

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Despite its lackluster execution, this story’s simple premise and basic vocabulary make it suitable for younger readers...

HOME OF THE BRAVE

From the author of the Animorphs series comes this earnest novel in verse about an orphaned Sudanese war refugee with a passion for cows, who has resettled in Minnesota with relatives.

Arriving in winter, Kek spots a cow that reminds him of his father’s herd, a familiar sight in an alien world. Later he returns with Hannah, a friendly foster child, and talks the cow’s owner into hiring him to look after it. When the owner plans to sell the cow, Kek becomes despondent. Full of wide-eyed amazement and unalloyed enthusiasm for all things American, Kek is a generic—bordering on insulting—stereotype. His tribe, culture and language are never identified; personal details, such as appearance and age, are vague or omitted. Lacking the quirks and foibles that bring characters to life, Kek seems more a composite of traits designed to instruct readers than an engaging individual in his own right.

Despite its lackluster execution, this story’s simple premise and basic vocabulary make it suitable for younger readers interested in the plight of war refugees. (Fiction. 9-11)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2007

ISBN: 978-0-312-36765-7

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Feiwel & Friends

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2007

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