Maybe this children’s book, Because of Winn-Dixie by Kate DiCamillo, is old hat to you. After all it was published a dozen years ago, won the Newberry Honor Book Award, and has even been made into a movie. So if you know it you can skip right to the last paragraph of my review here. But maybe, like me, you somehow missed this book. My daughter recently brought it home from her classroom, and I want to recommend it as a great read to both parents and children (above the age of 9) alike. The subject matter is a bit heavy in parts so it may not be the best read for younger children.
Whats the story? Because of Winn-Dixie is the tale of 10-year-old India Opal Buloni. Sounds like Baloney, doesn’t it? The entire book is full of characters with strange names. The girl Opal has just moved to a new town and is feeling rather lost. The story revolves around the mystery of her mother who left Opal and her dad when she was 3 years old. Opal’s father is a minister at a little roadside church he started in a poor community. One day he sends Opal grocery shopping. Instead of bringing home the food to prepare dinner with, Opal returns with a stray dog, who she names after the grocery store Winn-Dixie . Through the adoption of the dog the father and daughter are finally able to bond and talk about the disappearance of her mother. The dog also becomes the means through which Opal is able to become part of the new community.
What I found most extraordinary about this book is the old time feeling it has to it. When I looked at the publishing date of 2000 I could hardly believe it. Maybe it’s the description of the quaint folks Opal meets or the description of her surroundings, the stores, the houses, the church her father preaches in? I can’t put my finger on it. The story is sweet and simple, and right to the point. What do we learn from it? I think the main lesson of the story is about prejudice. That we should not judge people based on first impressions such as their name (they didn’t choose it after all) or their reputation. We should always go seek out the truth for ourselves and not believe what other people say about someone…
I can’t help but want to share my favorite passage from the book. You know the kind of passage you want a write in your reading log if you keep one…
About the invention of Littmus Lozenges:
“Well, Littmus came home from the war…And he sat down on what used to be the front step of his house, and he cried and cried. He cried just like a baby. He missed his mama and he missed his daddy and he missed his sisters and he missed the boy he used to be. When he finally finished crying, he had the strangest sensation. He felt like he wanted something sweet. He wanted a piece of candy. Hadn’t had a piece of candy in years. And it was right then that he made a decision. Yes, ma’am. Littmus W. Block figured the world was a sorry affair and that it had enough ugly things in it and what he was going to do was concentrate on putting something sweet in it….” quoted from Because of Winn-Dixie by Kate DiCamillo, Candlewick Press, Cambridge Massachusetts, 2000.
I guess this passage really spoke to me because this is exactly how I feel about the toys and creations that members of the NaturalKids team on Etsy make to send out into the world. I see them as little beacons of light in a world that is full of darkness and sadness.