Because of Winn Dixie

Author: Kate DiCamillo
My recommended age: 9 and up (if read aloud with a parent) otherwise probably 10-11.
Guided Reading Level: R
Lexile Level: 610L

This story has won numerous awards and seems to be an elementary school reading group favorite. Opal is a 10 year old girl who has just moved to a new town with her father (a preacher). The story begins with Opal saving a dog from certain doom after he caused mayhem in a grocery story. She takes the dog home and soon good things start happening to her. The dog, which she names Winn Dixie, is absolutely lovable and endearing, while Opal's character is a trusting caring heartsick little girl.

As charming as many think this book is, it does have some heavy, more mature themes. Many of the characters in the book have "issues" which can confuse and possibly cause anxiety for kids. Opal's alcoholic mother abandoned them leaving Opal sad and alone and her father seemingly distant. In addition, Opal befriends: an ex-convict, a recovering alcoholic, a little girl whose brother died, two "trickster" boys, and a possibly crazy "spinster" librarian (who hands out candy that makes the person eating it feel sad...). Although all of the characters in the book were harmless, this 10 year old girl spent many hours alone with them. In the end, Opal and Winn Dixie brought everyone together for a neat and tidy ending.

Because of the complex characters and their pasts, I chose to read this book out loud with my daughter (she read a page and then I read a page). It worked really well. During our read, we would talk about the importance of NEVER being alone with adult men, especially those who have been in jail, as well as being careful of older women who hand out candy that evoke strange feelings, or older women that have several wine bottles hanging from their back tree. I

My daughter enjoyed the book more than I did, but I think part of that is because it gave her some one on one time with mom. I am reasonably sure that when she is in fourth grade her class will visit it again, and I will be really glad we read it together first. Our next plan is to watch the movie which was recently released and then compare.

Happy Reading!

Great read!

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