Poor Donald Zinkoff. He’s such a loser — messy, clumsy, slow. And he’s giggly — an all-purpose laugher, whether it’s appropriate or not. Sad really. He can’t win for losing. And everybody knows it.
Everybody except Donald.
With regard to his exuberance for life, his second-grade teacher writes 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 doubtlessly be pleased by his victory. I also applaud Spinelli for choosing to make Donald’s parents a compassionate and accepting pair when it comes to their misfit but utterly earnest son.
Nevertheless, Spinelli creates no idealistic ending here; instead, with a near tragedy, the author demonstrates the differences between those who can continue to see with the compassion of child-like eyes, and those who lose sight of what is truly important. An endearing tale with heart to spare. If you’re a big person who sometimes likes small person books, do not miss this one.