Old Yeller For Girls: Because of Winn-Dixie
Because of Winn-Dixie by Kate DiCamillo. 2000.
It’s like Old Yeller for girls. DiCamillo writes this story in the adorable 10-year-old voice of India Opal Buloni, the preacher’s kid whose mother ran off when she was three. The story opens with a lonely Opal rescuing a stray dog, who within a day helps her gain a new friend, a party invitation, and a tree that she’s growing herself. There are many points of note in this charming and deceptively simple story.
- There’s a simplicity to the voice that contrasts well with the depth of lessons “taught” by Gloria Dump, such as not judging people on what they’ve done.
- Themes develop fairly naturally, like friendship, empathy, letting go and moving on (another lesson from Gloria, that you can’t hold on to things, you’ve got to love what you’ve got while you’ve got it).
- A Holes-like story-within-a-story set up with various characters telling of their past relatives and such.
- A sweet protagonist hooks the reader while tension slowly and gradually builds; the reader grows more and more dependent on Winn-Dixie until his ultimate almost-loss helps us and Opal face the real loss of her mother.
- Everything is tightly foreshadowed—the dog’s fear of storms, the final party in which we just know a thunder storm will send the dog fleeing into the night. It felt almost too tight, like I could feel the bones of the book, see the edges of the framework.
An update: the movie wasn't quite so captivating. My kids gave up on it mid-way through.