Because of Winn-Dixie
by Kate DiCamillo (2000)
Because of Winn-Dixie is the story of a lonely girl, Opal, who just moved to Florida with her father, an itinerant preacher, who manages to make friends with an eccentric cast of characters via the charms of a stray dog. The book was a Newbery Honor Book and its author, Kate DiCamillo, has gone on to to win the Award multiple times with her subsequent work.
Because of Winn-Dixie is a favorite choice for One School, One Book because it is short (170 pp.) and very accessible – easy to read aloud, and easy to apprehend. DiCamillo writes clear prose and is a brisk story-teller. The charms come from her characters, each of whom bear their own brand of wisdom, shared by Opal and the reader alike.
Because of Winn-Dixie also offers the fine example of a mere trivia question bearing fruit long after the book has been read. Early in the book, Opal asks her father to tell her ten things about her (absent) mother. The preacher obliges with an intriguing list, bearing charms (she loved to run) and faults (she couldn’t cook). As an innovative trivia question, students have been asked to re-create the list of ten items about Opal’s mother – as a class. Teachers at participating schools have been so enamored of the list of Ten Things (there is another later in the book about the dog, Winn-Dixie), that they have created their own projects for Mother’s and Father’s Day – suggesting students write Ten Things about each of their parents.
Just a small, but charming example of the legacy that reading One Book as One School can yield.