With the opening words of Because of Winn-Dixie, author Kate DiCamillo captures young readers' attention. "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." With these words, ten-year-old Opal Buloni begins her account of the summer her life changed because of Winn-Dixie, a goofy stray dog she adopted. Opal and her father, whom she usually refers to as "the preacher," have just moved to Naomi, Florida.
The StoryHer mother abandoned the family when Opal was three. Opal's father is the preacher at the Open Arms Baptist Church of Naomi. Although they are living at the Friendly Corners Trailer Park, Opal does not have any friends yet. The move and her loneliness make Opal miss her fun loving mother more than ever. She wants to know more about her mother, but the preacher, who misses his wife very much, won't answer her questions.
The author, Kate DiCamillo, does an excellent job of capturing the "voice" of Opal, who is a resilient child. With the help of Winn-Dixie, Opal begins to meet a number of people in her community, some quite eccentric. As the summer progresses, Opal builds a number of friendships with people of all ages and types. She also convinces her father to tell her ten things about her mother, one for every year of Opal's life. Opal's story is both humorous and poignant as she learns about friendships, families, and moving on. It is, as the author states, "...a hymn of praise to dogs, friendship, and the South."
An Award Winner
Kate DiCamillo earned one of the highest honors in children's books when Because of Winn-Dixie was designated a Newbery Honor Book for excellence. In addition to being named a 2001 Newbery Honor Book, Because of Winn-Dixie was awarded the Josette Frank Award from the Children's Book Committee at Bank Street College of Education. This children's fiction award each year "...honors a book or books of outstanding literary merit in which children or young people deal in a positive and realistic way with difficulties in their world and grow emotionally and morally." Both awards were well deserved.
The Book and Movie Versions of Because of Winn-Dixie
Candlewick Press is the publisher of Because of Winn-Dixie(ISBN: 0763607762). The children's novel was first published in 2000, with the paperback and audiobook (cassette) versions published in 2001, and an audiobook (CD) version published in 2004. The book is 182 pages long. I would recommend Because of Winn-Dixie for children between the ages of eight and twelve. The children's movie version of Because of Winn-Dixie opened on February 18, 2005. I would also recommend the Because of Winn-Dixie movie for children between the ages of eight and twelve. It's on the About.com list of the Top Kids' Movies Based on Books for Kids Ages 8-12.
I recommend reading the book before seeing the movie. Reading a book allows you to fill in all of the gaps in a story with your own imagination, whereas if you see the movie before reading the book, memories of the movie can interfere with your own interpretation of the story. (One caveat: If your kids don't like to read, you can use the movie to interest them in reading the book afterwards.) While I like the movie version of Because of Winn-Dixie very much, I like the book even better because of DiCamillo's writing style and because there's more time and attention spent on character and plot development than in the movie. However, one of the things I particularly liked about the movie was the sense of place and time it created.
USA Today says, "Winn-Dixie is a winner"While some critics found the movie cloying and trite, the bulk of the reviews matched my perception of the movie as very good and gave it three to four stars. Responses included the following:
- "Because of Winn-Dixie is a sweet, family-friendly retelling of a touching and funny Newbery Award-winning children's book....Winn-Dixie is a welcome relief: a whimsical family film about longing and belonging told with gentle humanity." (Claudia Puig, 2/17/2005,USA Today)
- "In fact, there's not a bum note in this whole film, a poignant, well-soundtracked meditation on loneliness and loss despite its frequent comic sections....It's rare for a children's movie to show such humanity and such style; I highly recommend Because of Winn-Dixie as a result." (John Burns, The Georgia Straight)