A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this book.
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.
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
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.
Products & Purchases
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.
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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.
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.
Did we miss something on diversity?
Research shows a connection between kids' healthy self-esteem and positive portrayals in media. That's why we've added a new "Diverse Representations" section to our reviews that will be rolling out on an ongoing basis. You can help us help kids by suggesting a diversity update.