Because of Winn-Dixie

 
This poignant novel is one of the best around.
Newbery Medal and Honors

What parents need to know

Positive messages

In simple, lyrical language, India learns not to judge others on first impressions, and to make friends by opening herself to others.

Positive role models

Opal, who narrates the story, ties it all together. Her voice is one of the more distinctive in recent years -- tart without being snide, humorous, wise without precocity, and honest. Initially she is more comfortable with adults than with children, but she learns, with help from her unusual dog and some caring adults, to look for the good in others.

Violence

India is dealing with her mother's abandonment.

Sex
Not applicable
Language
Not applicable
Consumerism
Not applicable
Drinking, drugs, & smoking
Not applicable

Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that there's not much plot, but this gentle character story, simply told, is as engrossing and sweet as they come. In simple, lyrical language, India learns not to judge others on first impressions, and to make friends by opening herself to others.

What's the story?

When lonely India Opal Buloni takes home a stray dog she finds at the supermarket, her whole life changes in ways she couldn't have imagined. This soothing, poignant first novel, filled with the atmosphere of a dusty Southern town, is one of the best around.

India Opal Buloni has just moved to the small town of Naomi, Florida, with her father, a preacher who \"reminded me of a turtle hiding inside its shell.\" Her mother abandoned them years before, and Opal feels alone and abandoned in her new town.

At the supermarket she rescues a stray dog who looks \"like a big piece of old brown carpet that had been left out in the rain,\" and names him Winn-Dixie, after the market. She soon discovers that he is great at making friends, and because of Winn-Dixie, Opal is learning to see beyond people's surfaces.

The ex-con who runs the pet shop plays music that mesmerizes animals. An woman rumored to be a witch is just an old lady who is half-blind, but can see with her heart. A pinched-faced girl harbors a tragic secret. And all are soon her friends.

Is it any good?

QUALITY
 

BECAUSE OF WINN-DIXIE is a warmhearted, lovely combination of hilarity (in one scene Winn-Dixie captures an unhurt mouse in the church and delivers it to the preacher during his sermon), poignancy (a candy that tastes of sadness created by a young man who lost everything in the Civil War), and the kind of characters you find only in Southern novels (a child named Sweetie Pie, an old woman who ties bottles to a tree to hold the ghosts of her past transgressions).

Opal, who narrates, ties it all together. Her voice is one of the more distinctive in recent years -- tart without being snide, humorous, wise without precocity, and honest. Initially she is more comfortable with adults than with children, but she learns, with help from her unusual dog and some caring adults, to look for the good in others. This exceptional first novel joins a genre, epitomized by Patricia MacLachlan's work, of stories without villains, which hold the reader instead through the charm of the characters, the delight of the events, and the lyricism of the writing.

Families can talk about...

  • Families can talk about first impressions.

  • How do Opal's opinions of the new people in her life change through the course of the story?

  • Families can also talk about pets. Why do you think it's easier for Opal to befriend a dog than other people?

  • How does her friendship with Winn-Dixie change her other relationships?

  • If you have a pet, do you consider your pet to be a friend?

Book details

Author:Kate DiCamillo
Genre:Friendship
Book type:Fiction
Publisher:Candlewick Press
Publication date:January 1, 2000
Number of pages:182
Publisher's recommended age(s):9 - 12
Award:Newbery Medal and Honors

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  • Good: Pretty engaging; good learning approach.
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Teen, 13 years old Written byaddie2011 January 21, 2011
age 8+
 
What other families should know
Great messages
Great role models
Adult Written byDexterSmith April 9, 2008
age 0+
 

Superb novel with superb messages.

Because of Winn-Dixie tells the story of India Opal Buloni, a 10-year-old girl who moves to a new town and doesn't know anybody. She is teased by the kids at church, and she has no friends. But all of that changes one day, when she is sent to a local Winn-Dixie store and finds a stray dog running around. She, much to her father's dismay, adopts the dog, and names it Winn-Dixie after the store. Winn-Dixie helps Opal make plenty of friends in this small southern town. This is a fantastic book, but some of the content may be too much for kids. Opal's mother has abandoned her, and we learn that a little girl's brother drowned. Language consists of a few utterances of "hell". We learn that Gloria and Opal's mother were alcoholics (Gloria also has a "mistake tree" that has beer bottles hanging from it). However, the book has wonderful messages of tolerance and friendship. This is a great book for kids 8 and older.
Adult Written byirenew April 9, 2008
age 8+
 

Beautifully written, moving story. A quick read.

This was a lovely story with a lot of well-written imagery that kids can understand. The story has some sad issues: a mother that has left and another minor characters brother has drowned, but I think the book deals with them in a manner that children can understand and empathize.The main character is a young girl who learns, through the loyalty of her dog, that life is full of surprises and we grow through our experiences. I read this story with my 7 year-old and we were able to talk about these issues together. The chapters are short and make for perfect "bedtime" reading.

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