“Just about everything that happened to me that summer happened because of Winn-Dixie.”
“’There ain’t no way you can hold on to something that wants to go, you understand? You can only love what you got while you got it.’”
One day, shortly after moving to Florida with her father, Opal finds a stray dog in the local grocery store and claims it as her own. She names it Winn-Dixie after the store. Her father is a preacher and Opal is lonely in the new town. Her mother left them a while back and Opal is still processing her grief of not having her mother around.
While this is Kate DiCamillo’s first published book, it’s one of the last of hers I have read (a review of Tiger Rising is coming up soon). My daughters tend to read this book in school in third grade and have loved it. I figured I should read it, too. I’ve also been reading all of DiCamillo’s books since her tales seem to be filled with everyday wonder and magic.
The book takes us through a summer with Opal and Winn-Dixie as Opal finds her way through the town and meets new people. The librarian lets Opal bring the dog into the library. Opal meets a neighbor because Winn-Dixie runs into her yard. She starts working at the local pet store and making friends with the owner so she can buy supplies for the dog. She also bonds with her father over the dog. At the end of the summer, she throws a party for all her new friends, but a storm moves it indoors and scares Winn-Dixie. Will Opal find him in time?
I would highly recommend this book to any elementary child who is starting to read chapter books and can handle the topic of a mother leaving her family. The story shows how a child can deal with grief and adapt to new surroundings. It shows the love between a father and a daughter and how pets can sometimes help us heal. I’ll end with the preacher’s prayer at the party:
“Dear God, thank you for warm summer nights and candlelight and good food. But thank you most of all for friends. We appreciate the complicated and wonderful gifts you give us in each other. And we appreciate the task you put down before us, of loving each other the best we can, even as you love us.”