Because of Winn-Dixie

Book review by
Barbara Schultz, Common Sense Media
Because of Winn-Dixie Book Poster Image
Popular with kidsParents recommend
Stray dog helps lonely girl find friends in lovely tale.

Parents say

age 8+
Based on 15 reviews

Kids say

age 8+
Based on 60 reviews

Did this review miss something on diversity?

Research shows a connection between kids' healthy self-esteem and positive, diverse representations in books, TV shows, and movies. Want to help us help them? Suggest a diversity update

A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this book.

Educational Value

Because Winn-Dixie is terrified of thunder and of being left alone, readers will learn about how dogs behave when they're afraid. Opal also learns what "pathological fear" is and what "melancholy" means. She reads Gone with the Wind to Gloria Dump and shares a bit about the theme and plot.

Positive Messages

Be open-hearted and gentle, because most people have their own secret sorrows. The Preacher says a prayer to bless Opal and Gloria's garden party that expresses an essential message of the book: "Dear God, thank you for warm summer nights and candlelight and good food. But thank you most of all for friends. We appreciate the complicated and wonderful gifts you give us in each other. And we appreciate the task you put down before us, of loving each other the best we can, even as you love us." Gloria tells Opal, "You can't always judge people by the things they done. You got to judge them by what they are doing now."

Positive Role Models & Representations

Opal learns, with help from her unusual dog and some caring adults, to look for the good in others. She learns to try to understand rather than judge.


Winn-Dixie is named after the supermarket where Opal found him. So, the brand name is used throughout the book, but it's almost exclusively in reference to the dog, not the store.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

The Preacher reveals to Opal that Opal's mother used to drink beer, whiskey, and wine, and "Sometimes she couldn't stop drinking." Gloria Dump also has a history of drinking, and she hung the empty bottles hanging in the back of her garden to remind her of past bad behavior, at least partly under the influence of alcohol.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Because of Winn-Dixie, Kate DiCamillo's lovely novel about 10-year-old Opal and the stray dog that changes her life, is a charming story full of quirky characters and sweet friendships. There's a melancholy veil over Opal's story, because her mother abandoned her, but that also helps her to feel empathy for friends who have experienced loss and sorrow. Whiskey, beer, and wine are mentioned because Opal's mother used to drink to excess. Gloria Dump used to drink as well -- the empties hanging from trees in her backyard represent past transgressions, including drinking -- but that's in the past and predates the time of this story. Parents should also note that the town librarian, Miss Franny, tells Opal that the Civil War was fought over slavery and "states' rights" and recommends that Opal read Gone with the Wind, a book that perpetuates racist stereotypes. On the whole, however, this novel is a heartwarming story about outcasts who find solace in friendship, and it will make every lonely kid want a dog. It was made into a film in 2005.

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Parent Written byCourtney S. October 16, 2017

The Perfect Read Aloud for both Character and Academic Lessons

I've read this book to students in the 4th, 5th, and 6th grades and they absolutely love it! The character development is perfect for minilessons on chara... Continue reading
Adult Written byTeacher3 December 10, 2009
As a teacher, I feel this book and movie have lots of important issues. In my classroom, year after year, it brings rich discussions on things like alcoholism,... Continue reading
Teen, 13 years old Written byChickable2 January 25, 2012

Winner dixie

It's good, although in my opinion it could use work.
Kid, 11 years old March 2, 2015


I love dog books and I think this is the best I've read, it is a very meaning full book, I love it!
I highly recommend it!!!!


What's the story?

When the narrator of BECAUSE OF WINN-DIXIE, India Opal Buloni, takes home a stray dog she finds at the supermarket, her whole life begins to change. Opal 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 sad in her new town. One day at the supermarket, she meets a stray dog whose fur looks "like a big piece of old brown carpet that had been left out in the rain." The dog has gotten into the store and and is knocking over product displays with his wagging tale. The store manager says he's going to call the pound, so Opal saves him, telling the manager that the dog is hers and his name is Winn-Dixie. Winn-Dixie's adorable, silly behavior --his friendliness, his funny sneeze-smile, and the way he howls whenever he's left alone -- endears him to new friends. As Opal gets to know her new neighbors, she learns that many of them have sorrows of their own, and she takes a collection of wallflowers into her heart: the ex-con who runs the pet shop; a blind old woman who's rumored to be a witch; an elderly librarian with stories to share; a pinched-faced girl who acts superior to Opa;, and a few more children who need friends just as much as Opal does. 

Is it any good?

Kate DiCamillo's lovely, short novel is full of charming, quirky characters and beautiful life lessons. Winn-Dixie becomes Opal's true friend and her reason for being. He's afraid to be alone, and so is Opal, but now they have each other, and the goofy dog helps the little girl make new friends. Readers of Because of Winn-Dixie will see how much Opal's life improves when she approaches people with an open mind and an open heart, and they'll see how much comfort she finds in realizing that she's not the only one living with sorrow. Most important, all of these feelings are couched in an amusing story with a wonderful cast of misfits. 

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about first impressions in Because of Winn-Dixie. What does Opal learn about looking beyond the obvious? How do Opal's opinions of the new people in her life change through the course of the story?

  • What makes Winn Dixie special? How does he compare with dogs in other stories you've read or watched? Why do you think stories about beloved dogs are so popular? 

  • How does Opal's friendship with Winn-Dixie change her other relationships? If you have a pet, do you consider your pet a friend?

Book details

Our editors recommend

For kids who love animal tales

Themes & Topics

Browse titles with similar subject matter.

Top advice and articles

Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.

See how we rate

About these links

Common Sense Media, a nonprofit organization, earns a small affiliate fee from Amazon or iTunes when you use our links to make a purchase. Thank you for your support.

Read more

Our ratings are based on child development best practices. We display the minimum age for which content is developmentally appropriate. The star rating reflects overall quality.

Learn how we rate