Because of Winn-Dixie – Kate DeCamillo
India Opal, generally referred to as Opal, is new in town. She has just moved to a small town in Florida because her father, the preacher, was assigned to a new congregation. Without her familiar surroundings, she feels more vulnerable and scared than ever, longing for the mother who left when she was young. Lucky for Opal, she quickly finds a friend in a stray dog when she runs down to the Winn-Dixie grocery store one day. Naming him after the place she found him, Opal and Winn-Dixie become inseparable. They go to church together, share the same bed, and walk all over town meeting new people and even making some friends. Through her partnership with Winn-Dixie, Opal learns how to move on and build new relationships as life continually pushes forward.
“Because of Winn-Dixie” is an adorable story about finding the courage to push outside your comfort zone and reach out to others. It covers everything from loss and death to alcoholism, but does so with a tone of childhood teasing, so although the issues are serious, they are portrayed with a touch of simplicity that allows for forgiveness and growth. Opal’s innocent curiosity about life also emphasizes that skill children have for asking difficult questions with unassuming interest, which tends to put a little perspective on how big (or, more likely, small) the issue really is. Her simple trust and optimistic determination about building relationships, and life in general, make her an excellent protagonist for a children’s novel.
I love children’s books because of the perspective they offer on life. There always seems to be more of an element of fun and play while also tackling some of the stickier issues of life. Children’s novels can’t be too serious because of their intended audience, and I think we always need that little reminder. This is a very simple book, probably readable in one sitting if you have enough time, but easy enough to pick up and put down.