Because of Winn-Dixie by Kate DiCamillo
India Opal Buloni and her father have just arrived in Naomi, Florida for his new job as the preacher at the Open Arms Baptist Church. What follows is the story of how a dog helps a lonely little girl settle into her new home, make friends and help make peace with the fact that her mother abandoned her as a baby. It’s a small story, no sweeping plot or crazy twists, just well-drawn portraits of small town people and a sweet girl with a heart big enough for all of them.
I found Because of Winn Dixie to be thoroughly satisfying and a pleasure to read, which was a huge relief after the run of lousy books I’d read. I’d say readers in Grades 3 and up could enjoy it. While Winn Dixie (the dog) is a very important character, this is clearly from the human perspective and his role is most definitely to be the dog. He does treat us to some cute antics however and is at the center of action throughout. Animal lovers will not only enjoy Winn Dixie, but many of the scenes at the pet shop which include a loud-mouthed parrot.
Sex, Nudity, Dating – None.
Profanity – “hell,” “retarded,”
Death, Violence and Gore – A 5 year old child drowned. Boys tell Opal that a witch will eat her dog. An older woman talks about how everyone she knew is now dead and gone. A man punched a police officer. In a story about a Civil War soldier that is told during the book we learn that he returned home to find his whole family dead, his sisters from typhus and his father killed in the war.
Drugs, Alcohol and Smoking – It’s pretty clear that Opal’s mother was a best a heavy drinker and at worst an alcoholic. Her father tells her that she drank whiskey, beer, wine and couldn’t really stop. An older woman admits to having had problems with alcohol in the past and has filled a tree with empty bottles to keep the ghosts away.
Frightening or Intense Things – Opal’s mother ran away when she was 3 days old and this abandonment is a major theme in the book. Miss Franny has fits which seem to be some type of seizures?