Bibliographic Information: DiCamillo, K. (2009). Because of Winn-Dixie. Cambridge, MA: Candlewick Press.
Brief Annotation: When Opal moves to Naomi, Florida, she is coping with making friends, her strained relationship with her father, and her feelings about her mother, who left the family when Opal was three- but her adoption of a stray dog changes everything.
Genre: Contemporary Realistic Fiction
Grade Level: 4-7
Readers who will like this: Readers who enjoy stories with animals; readers who like stories that feature character growth; readers who enjoy stories about family.
Rating/Response: 5; I loved this book. I don’t tend to do well with animal books and movies (mostly because they feature drool jokes, something bad happens to the animal, or both), but this was an exception. I loved the characters, I loved Opal’s interactions with them, and her growing understanding of the ways in which a person’s past and present intersect. The heart of the book is Opal’s relationship with her father, damaged almost beyond repair by the desertion of her mother, and the journey they take towards reconciliation. I think this would be an excellent book to introduce students to more complex themes of family in literature, such as the concept of found family (vs. blood family).
One question you would ask before a read aloud: Like The fault in our stars, I likely couldn’t read this book aloud because I would cry too hard, but if I were to attempt it, I might ask, “Is it possible for people to be part of a family even if they’re not related to each other?”