“My name is India Opal Buloni, and last summer my daddy, the preacher, sent me to the store for a box of macaroni-and-cheese, some white rice, and two tomatoes and I came back with a dog.”
So begins Kate DiCamillo’s widely-loved, Newbery Honor Book, Because of Winn-Dixie. Opal has just moved to Florida with her father and she is lonely. It’s bad enough that she had to leave behind all her friends. Now Opal finds it harder than she could’ve imagined to make connections in her new community.
“I know I don’t need a dog. But this dog needs me.”
Opal has been thinking about her mother with increasing frequency, which is a problem for many reasons. For one, she left when Opal was three, and getting the preacher to tell Opal anything about her mother is like pulling teeth. As she cleans and gets Winn-Dixie looking less like a stray, Opal talks to her new furry pal, and Winn-Dixie dutifully listens.
“You can’t always judge people by the things they done. You got to judge them by what they are doing now.”
Having Winn-Dixie in her life leads Opal to befriend an eccentric cast of characters. There’s the small, quirky librarian, Miss Franny Block, who reads aloud; the gentle, Otis, who runs Gertrude’s Pets and plays guitar; and Gloria Dump, the she’s-not-really-a-witch of Naomi, Florida. There are also children: the Dewberry brothers, Sweetie Pie Thomas, and pinch-faced Amanda Wilkinson, who have their own difficulties and their own defenses just like Opal. Each shares their history – good and bad and in-between – helping Opal learn that maybe she isn’t the only one that’s lonely. Maybe everyone carries their own sadness around.
Among the multitude of titles in Read to Them’s catalog, Because of Winn-Dixie is a favorite choice for school-wide readingevents. Not only is it short and accessible to a wide age range, its clear prose and DiCamillo’s brisk storytelling make it ideal for reading aloud. Along the way, readers will learn the secret of Litmus Lozenges, how to make Dump Punch, and the importance of pickles. And all will find themselves learning lessons from each character’s special brand of wisdom. As Gloria Dump says, “You can trust a dog that likes peanut butter.”