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Because of Winn-Dixie

Because of Winn-Dixie by Kate DiCamillo book cover


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Book Review

India Opal Buloni went to the grocery store to get macaroni-and-cheese, rice, and two tomatoes; she came back with a dog instead. She convinces her dad to let her keep the pooch, and now she has one bright spot in a summer that hasn’t had many.

Plot Summary

When 10-year-old Opal discovers a dog causing chaos in the produce section of the local grocery store, she knows the pooch has to be hers. She convinces her dad to let her keep Winn-Dixie (named after the grocery store), and suddenly her summer takes a turn for the better.

The summer certainly hadn’t started out so great. Opal is new to town and trying to make friends. With her dad always working on a sermon and no one to talk to, she finds herself thinking about the mother she can’t remember more than ever before. But with Winn-Dixie by her side, Opal soon realizes she won’t be lonely for long. Everywhere Opal goes, people love her dog. Soon, Winn-Dixie is opening all sorts of doors for Opal, ranging from chats with librarian Franny Block to the job she takes at the pet store. Her dad finds a soft spot for the dog, too—and he even forgives him for interrupting the sermon to chase a mouse.

Thanks largely to her adopted dog, Opal finds that one person after another has a story to tell—even Gloria Dump, the blind old woman who the Dewberry boys claimed was a witch. Now Opal just has to find a way to bring all her new friends together and draw her dad out of the shell he hides in so often. They might be very different people, but they have one thing in common—a sorry-looking stray named Winn-Dixie.

Christian Beliefs

Opal’s father is a preacher at the Open Arms Baptist Church of Naomi. Florida. He also used to be a missionary in India. A church service, including prayer, worship, and preaching, is mentioned. Opal prays about her mom and about making new friends. Opal’s father asks Otis (a shy, quiet man who works at the local pet shop) to play a hymn.

Other Belief Systems

Dunlap and Stevie Dewberry call Gloria Dump a witch. Magic and ghosts are mentioned.

Authority Roles

Opal has a hard time thinking of the preacher as her daddy because he’s always working on a sermon and serving people at church. However, he’s a good preacher and a good man. Over the course of the book, he and Opal grow closer and connect more. Opal’s mom left when Opal was very young. She didn’t like being a preacher’s wife and often drank too much.

Profanity & Violence

The preacher mentions that Opal’s mom drank a lot, including beer, whiskey, and wine. Gloria Dump has empty bottles tied to her tree because she used to be an alcoholic.

The preacher throws a mouse out of the church that Winn-Dixie catches. Franny Block tells Opal that she threw a book at a bear that came into the library when she was young. The Civil War, slavery, and the Battle of Fort Sumter are all mentioned.

Stevie calls Otis retarded. Franny says war is hell. She also talks about her great-grandfather getting shot at and returning from war to a house burned to the ground. His mom and sisters got sick and died, and his dad was killed in battle.

Opal discovers that the brother of Amanda—a girl about Opal’s age—drowned the previous year.

Sexual Content


Discussion Topics

Winn-Dixie helped Opal make new friends. How do you make new friends? Do you know anyone who might need a friend?

Read Proverbs 17:17. What does a good friend do?

Opal thought Amanda wasn’t nice, but then she learned that she was having a hard time. Do you usually give people the benefit of the doubt? Why or why not?

Additional Comments

Because of Winn-Dixie by Kate DiCamillo is a classic book that teaches important lessons about friendship and bringing people together. It doesn’t have a lot of content to navigate, and kids will love DiCamillo’s vibrant characters and humorous plotlines, and they might fall in love with Winn-Dixie just like Opal and her friends.

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Book reviews cover the content, themes and worldviews of fiction books, not necessarily their literary merit, and equip parents to decide whether a book is appropriate for their children. The inclusion of a book’s review does not constitute an endorsement by Focus on the Family.

Review by Rachel Pfeiffer