Kate DiCamillo has written a book that someone of any age could love. I can see a parent reading it to a young child; I can just as easily imagine older readers being taken with India Opal Buloni's winning voice, especially the animal lovers among us. India Opal's voice carries us from the very first page and the event that sets the plot in motion, the moment she claims a stray dog who has wandered into the local grocery store and caused a little bit of havoc. Opal has just moved to town; she lives with her preacher father--her mother left long ago--and she doesn't have any friends. After she claims this slightly stinky dog with his missing tufts of hair and his toothy smile, Opal thinks, "I knew I had done something big. And stupid, too. But I couldn't help it" (10). She's lucky she took that dog home, and we are too.
Because of Winn-Dixie hits a balance between humor and melancholy just right on the spot where, as you read, you're smiling yet can feel the slightest tinge of a tear behind that smile. It's a feeling best captured by the taste of the Littmus Lozenges that Miss Franny Block--local librarian and Opal's first friend in the new town--introduces to Opal: "the sweet and the sad…all mixed up together" (126). But, like the Littmus Lozenge, Because of Winn-Dixie is also a little bit of strawberry and a little bit of root beer and a little of something else, something unnamable, but definitely, undeniably, good.
[DiCamillo, Kate. Because of Winn-Dixie. Cambridge: Candlewick Press, 2000.]