Because of Winn Dixie
Candlewick 2000 182 pgs
Opal is struggling with settling in to her new Florida town after a move with her preacher father. After an unfortunate scene at the Winn Dixie, Opal and a scraggly looking dog find each other and she fittingly names him Winn Dixie after the supermarket. Winn Dixie provides Opal with companionship and a sounding board. He gives her courage to meet new friends and to finally ask her father to tell her ten things about her estranged mother. The friends Opal meets are a rag-tag bunch; the elderly town librarian, a five-year-old little girl, the former prison inmate pet store manager, a pinch-faced snotty girl of her own age, the town "witch" who lives alone in the woods, and two pesky boys with unfortunate haircuts and smart mouths. As Opal makes new connections with the folks around her, she realizes that everyone is carrying burdens. The book climaxes with a big party, gathering all of Opal's new friends and her father together. It is then that people begin to let their guards down and feel the healing power of love and friendship, including Opal herself.
Ten Things about Because of Winn Dixie:
1. It has quirky, flawed, well-developed, and wonderful characters.
2. It contains a terrifically lovable dog and proves the healing power of animals.
3. It celebrates the magic of music and contains an unforgettable scene where the manager has all the animals in the pet shop dancing to his guitar.
4. It demonstrates to kids not judge people by the first impression. Get to know them and see what is beneath the mask.
5. It is a wonderful piece of Americana, solidly set in the south of a time that could be now or fifty years ago.
6. It values the power of storytelling. features a passionate and kind librarian, and emphasizes the importance of books.
7. It is a tribute to the importance of community, multi-generational relationship, and all of us working together to overcome the hurt in our lives. We can't do it alone.
8. It contains magical candy and a party with twinkle lights.
9. It is an excellent read-aloud.
10. It is a superbly written children's book, which was awarded a Newbery Honor in 2001 (but should have won the medal).