India Opal Buloni just moved to Naomi, Florida with her father, the preacher. Friendless and listless, India’s summer in a new town is soon filled with new friends and experiences because of a stray-dog named Winn-Dixie.
This book is like a lighter version of To Kill A Mockingbird, but without the murder trial and mass racism. There is prejudice in Naomi, FL., but in a different form. Children and adults cast judgements about their neighbors without knowing their true stories. Take Otis from Gertrude’s Pets. A mild-mannered and shy fellow who had an unfortunate stint in jail. There is Gloria Dump, the woman children taunt as a “witch”.
India’s life is immediately changed when she finds and claims Winn-Dixie as her own at the Winn-Dixie grocery store. India goes through a summer of self-discovery and coming of age. She not only learns more about the sadness in her life (a mother who abandoned India and her father), but also learns to understand and empathize with the sadness in the lives of those around her.
The book is beautifully written, well paced and short. There are a lot of issues to absorb in only 182 pages. I consider this a light book, because DiCamillo does not delve deeply into the histories of the supporting characters. She only lightly touches upon their heartaches and accomplishments in ways that compliment Winn-Dixie’s arrival and purpose in India’s life.
The chapters are short, making this a great book for the bedtime storytime for older kids. I think this is a book that adults can enjoy as well. There are a lot of mature issues subtly interwoven throughout the novel that can be dissected and discussed; single parenting, prejudice, death, friendship, loyalty, etc.