Because of Winn-Dixie is a Newberry winner, and it’s easy to know why once you read this book for upper elementary age children. The story is told in the first person, by a young girl, India Opal Buloni.
India lives in the US South, with her father who is a preoccupied preacher. He loves India very much, but they both miss India’s mother who left years ago. When they move to a new town, India feels particularly lost. She wants to know more about what her mother was like, and also to fit in to the new town.
One day while she is in the Winn-Dixie store a large, ugly dog who has snuck in makes a mess, and the manager asks whose dog it is. India recognizes something in common with this lost dog, and says it is hers. She names him Winn-Dixie and takes him home. She and her father both fall in love with the dog, who is still pretty ugly even after being cleaned up.
India asks her father to tell her 10 things about her mother, one for every year she is old. So her father does. India begins to think about these things, and how she might be like her mother. Because of the dog, her father begins to pay more attention to what is going on around him. Together they learn that Winn-Dixie is terrified of thunderstorms.
Meanwhile life goes on in the small town. She goes to the library and makes friends with the librarian. She also makes friends with an older woman who has a reputation for being strange. A younger girl wants to be her friend because she is also attracted to the dog, but India still has no friends her own age.
Before the end of the book she has learned some things about herself and about others that make it possible for her to be friends with some other children.
The book ends with a party and a thunderstorm. I won’t give away more than that.
The whole book is told through India’s eyes, and allows the reader to learn through her experiences, rather than being told what the lessons are.
This is a delightful read for anyone, adult or child.