Book Summary: During a Florida summer, 10-year-old Opal finds a stray dog she names Winn-Dixie, after the store she found it in. Over the summer, Winn-Dixie helps Opal meet the townspeople--since she recently moved there and has no friends. She meets and befriends the local librarian and an older woman the neighborhood boys think is a witch. She also struggles to accept her mother's abandonment.
APA Reference: DiCamillo, K. (2000). Because of Winn-Dixie. Cambridge, MA: Candlewick Press.
Impressions: Because of Winn-Dixie is a simplistically written book that attempts to be more like To Kill a Mockingbird than it is. The characters are straight-forward and mostly flat, with a few exceptions--such as Opal herself and her father. The other characters share their backstories, which mainly serves as the nearly non-existent plot of the book. This is a book more focused on introducing characters than it is about telling a story. However, the morals here are strong, dealing with abandonment and acceptance--whether that is acceptance of a personal loss or accepting others who were written off too quickly. Because of this, it is a good book for younger readers who are attempting to transition from easy chapter books to more difficult fare.
Professional Review: --India Opal Buloni, 10, finds a big, ugly, funny dog in the produce department of a - grocery store. She names him accordingly and takes him home to meet her father, a preacher. Her daddy has always told her to help those less fortunate, and surely - is in need of a friend. Opal needs one, too. Since moving to Naomi, FL, she has been lonely and has been missing her mother more than usual. When she asks her father to tell her 10 things about her mother, who left the family when Opal was three, she learns that they both have red hair, freckles, and swift running ability. And, like her mother, Opal likes stories. She collects tales to tell her mother, hoping that she'll have a chance to share them with her one day. These stories are lovingly offered one after another as rare and polished gems and are sure to touch readers' hearts. They are told in the voice of this likable Southern girl as she relates her day-to-day adventures in her new town with her beloved dog. Do libraries need another girl-and-her-dog story? Absolutely, if the protagonist is as spirited and endearing as Opal and the dog as lovable and charming as -. This well-crafted, realistic, and heartwarming story will be read and reread as a new favorite deserving a long-term place on library shelves.
James, H.F. (2000). Because of Winn-Dixie (Book). [Review of the book Because of Winn-Dixie, by Kate DiCamillo]. School Library Journal, 46(6), 143.
Library Uses: This can be taught with a lesson on Newbery books and why students think is the reason it might have won.