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Because of Winn Dixie by Kate DiCamillo This work is considered exceptional by our editorial staff.

The drop of your stomach as you step into your new beginning, the bead of sweat that trickles down your forehead, the subconscious wringing of hands and the sense that everyone is bigger than you, smarter than you, looking down on you. Have you been there? Being new is difficult, and it’s hard to break into an already set routine so suddenly. It’s even harder if you’re ten years old and the preacher’s daughter. That’s Opal’s story. In Because of Winn Dixie, Kate DiCamillo tells the tale of young Opal, who starts a new life in a small town, and finds companionship with a stray that she names Winn Dixie. The dog opens up a new world for Opal, and helps her find friends in neighbors.
DiCamillo really puts herself in a ten-year old girl’s shoes. She writes as if telling the story to a friend. There is no unneeded, complicated vocabulary or phrases, but underneath the simplicity, there is a deeper meaning that I hadn’t understood when I was ten years old myself and reading it for the first time. Though the plot could be drawn out a little longer, the straightforwardness is appealing to younger audiences while the symbolism captures the older readers’ attention. DiCamillo’s voice is best described as casual and humorous. The book’s focus audience is from 8 to10 years old, but it brings back childhood feelings and reminds older readers of being young again.
The most interesting aspect of this book is the characters. Each character has his/her own traits and is striking in his/her own way. Opal, the narrator, is curious and caring. Her father, who is often referred to as “the preacher” in the book, is described as “a turtle hiding in its shell, in there thinking about things and not ever sticking his head out into the world.” He is still affected his wife leaving him, and Opal wants to help him heal. Another memorable character is Gloria Dump, the elderly lady that seems to know everything and is friendly to everyone, even though some of the kids think of her as a witch, and is maternal towards Opal. Amanda Wilkinson is the bitter girl with a sour past, who Opal befriends once they find a common ground. These characters, joined by a few others, come together to give Opal the sense of fullness and community that she had been lacking before.
Winn Dixie fuels the story. Nearly everything that occurs happens “because of Winn Dixie.” She is introduced to Otis when she looks for a job to buy Winn Dixie a new leash. She meets Gloria Dump when Winn Dixie runs away to Gloria’s yard. She finds the courage to ask her dad about her missing mom because of him. He attracts the attention of Sweetie Pie Thomas, and the duo is invited to her sixth birthday party. Winn Dixie is given human qualities. For example, he has a pathological fear or thunderstorms and the ability to smile, which also attracts people to Opal.
My positive opinion on this book is not alone, with many awards and titles supporting the excellence of this book. Because of Winn Dixie was named a Newbery Honor Book, a New York Times Bestseller, a School Library Journal Best Book of the Year, and a Publisher’s Weekly Best Children’s Book of the Year. It also won a Parent’s Choice Gold Award. Publisher’s Weekly writes “[An] exquisitely crafted first novel. Each chapter possesses an arc of its own and reads almost like a short story in its completeness; yet the chapters add up to more than the sum of their parts.”
Because of Winn Dixie shows that something as simple as a pet can lead to happiness. It’s a blend of a bildungsroman and a children’s book that has a little bit of everything to attract readers of all ages. Some may argue that it is juvenile, but since when did the audience of a book determine the quality? A picture book could easily surpass a YA book or adult novel in value if correctly written. Because of Winn Dixie took me by the arm and threw me back in a tornado of childhood memories.



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