Author: Kate DiCamillo
Length: 182 pages
Genre: Realistic Fiction
Series or Stand Alone: Stand alone
Content appropriate for: Grades 2-5
3 adjectives that describe this book: sweet, easy-to-read, simple
Because of Winn-Dixie is my first read for The Classics Club. My entire list of classics to read is composed of children's books and I'm looking forward to filling this gap in my reading. Because of Winn-Dixie is a simple read, the text is sparse and the plot is straight-forward. I've read a few other books by Kate DiCamillo (Tiger Rising and The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane). Like these other titles, Because of Winn-Dixie features a main character that is struggling with loneliness. Opal's mother left when she was three years old and, now, Opal is constantly wondering about her.
The other characters in this book, however, are the ones that really make the story. Opal befriends two women in their eighties, a mentally-challenged convict, and a curious five year old. Each of these characters adds depth to Opal's experiences and help her process the loss of her mother. The title character, a stray dog named Winn-Dixie, tags along with Opal wherever she goes.
My students absolutely love this book. They tell me that they love the dog in the story so I always thought this was "A Dog Book" and have recommended it to dog-lovers. Now that I've finally read it myself, I realize that Winn-Dixie is only a minor character. Each of his scenes is precious and heart warming, there just aren't that many of them. The fact that this is not "A Dog Book" disappoints me for some reason.
I think the real reason why my students love this book is because it's easy to understand. The plot is straight-forward, and the situations are simultaneously familiar and fascinating. DiCamillo writes clearly, with scenes that are easy to imagine. I'm glad my students like this book, but in my view it's nothing to write home about. The plot is too familiar to those us who have read a lot of middle grades realistic fiction, and the ending is too neat and tidy for me.
I will continue to recommend Because of Winn-Dixie to a subset of students, but maybe with a bit less vigor.