Review: Because of Winn-Dixie

Because of Winn-Dixie by Kate DiCamillo

Genre: Middle-Grade Fiction
Maturity Level: 1
View on Goodreads

The summer Opal and her father, the preacher, move to Naomi, Florida, Opal goes into the Winn-Dixie supermarket—and comes out with a dog. A big, ugly, suffering dog with a sterling sense of humor. A dog she dubs Winn-Dixie. Because of Winn-Dixie, the preacher tells Opal ten things about her absent mother, one for each year Opal has been alive. Winn-Dixie is better at making friends than anyone Opal has ever known, and together they meet the local librarian, Miss Franny Block, who once fought off a bear with a copy of WAR AND PEACE. They meet Gloria Dump, who is nearly blind but sees with her heart, and Otis, an ex-con who sets the animals in his pet shop loose after hours, then lulls them with his guitar.

Opal spends all that sweet summer collecting stories about her new friends and thinking about her mother. But because of Winn-Dixie or perhaps because she has grown, Opal learns to let go, just a little, and that friendship—and forgiveness—can sneak up on you like a sudden summer storm.

This is a sweet, touching book that I think is likely to go over the heads of the target audience. It’s a character-driven story about loneliness, and making friends, and learning to live with loss and abandonment. Elements of magical realism give it an almost whimsical feel, despite heavy themes. And while elements of this story will resonate with children, especially children of single parents, I personally think that too much of the book is sub-text for the vast majority of middle-grade readers to really catch on.

Opal is a relatable enough child, but Winn-Dixie really steals the show. His personality and charm helps Opal make friends with nearly everyone she meets, including the reader. I wonder if DiCamillo didn’t rely too much on Winn-Dixie at the expense of not making Opal compelling enough. Regardless, for dog-lovers this book is sure to be enjoyed, though it’s definitely not a “dog book” the way Old Yellar or Where the Red Fern Grows is.

Adults will definitely love this book, which is perhaps why it has won so many awards and is read so often in schools. However, I am skeptical that children who enjoy the book have truly understood all of the things that make it so special.

3 thoughts on “Review: Because of Winn-Dixie

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