by Kate DiCamillo
Candlewick Press, 2000
Sorry about the posting delay, all. I've been working through a very fractured-attention-span time, which leads to significantly less reading (I haven't read anything since this book) and less ability to write a coherent review, too. This may not get everything I wanted to say about this book, but I figured that a little review is better than no review at all.
This book is lovely. It's well-written. It's a little capsule of sweet and sad all rolled into 192 pages, and it is a perfect book club read for my parent-child group.
India Opal Buloni has moved to a small town in Florida with her single-parent father, a pastor at a small evangelical church. We meet her immediately as she is meeting Winn-Dixie, the titular dog, in the supermarket of the same name. He's causing quite a disruption, and she manages to convince everyone that he's hers, and she also manages to convince the pastor that they need a dog. Through the rest of the book, we follow India through her summer as she meets some very interesting people in the town, and starts to connect them to each other in ways they may not have foreseen before a girl and her dog showed up.
More than being about the hijinks between India and Winn-Dixie, though, this is a story of connection and friendship, and a story about loss and sadness, too. Which doesn't mean it's a sad book, or a downer in any way -- not a chance. But it is a book about the lives people lead that don't always show on the surface, and how beautiful and difficult those lives can be. I suppose in some ways, some of the characters might read like a heavy-handed moral -- "don't judge a book by it's cover!" and that sort of thing -- but I think DiCamillo handles it skillfully and gently, in a way that doesn't talk down to her readers. I enjoyed this book as much as an adult as I think the kids will enjoy it.
I definitely recommend this book for reading together. I think it's a fine read-alone for kids, too, but I think that there are a lot of themes that can be addressed here, making it an ideal read for the book club. I'd also recommend it for a light and quick, but not entirely fluffy, read for adults, too. DiCamillo writes in such a way that I could picture the southern atmosphere, I could feel the summer heat, and I could smell the wet dog. The story is simple, pleasant, and kind, but not without its touch of sadness, which I think makes the whole thing sweeter.