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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?
This exceptional first novel joins a genre of stories without villains, that hold the reader instead through the charm of the characters, the delight of the events, and the lyricism of the writing. 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.
Talk to your kids 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?
For kids who love animal tales
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