While Despereaux is complete fantasy about a mouse who talks and loves music, Winn Dixie is realistic fiction about a little girl and a dog who smiles with his teeth at anyone in range.
Ten-year-old India Opal Buloni is sent to the local Winn Dixie grocery store for a box of macaroni-and-cheese, some white rice, and two tomatoes. She comes back with a big scruffy dog.
Her daddy “the preacher” thinks they don’t need a dog, but Opal points out the Winn Dixie is one of the Less Fortunate, and they’re supposed to help the Less Fortunate. “This dog needs me,” she says.
Sure enough the skinny, sneezing mutt with bald patches and crooked yellow teeth does need a friend. But so does Opal.
Opal’s mother left when she was three, and her father is deep within himself. Opal says, “Sometimes he reminded me of a turtle hiding inside his shell, in there thinking about things and not ever sticking his head out into the real world.”
On top of that she and her father have just moved to Naomi, and people seem really slow to open up. Winn Dixie, with his wagging tail and sense of dog humor changes all that. Nothing like a grinning dog to break the ice with strangers.
Most everything that happens to Opal that summer happens because of Winn Dixie. He helps her get a job at the pet shop where Otis plays guitar to entertain the animals.
She gets to be friends with Miss Franny Block when the librarian mistakes Winn Dixie for a bear, and Opal has to pick the old lady up off the floor and reassure her that Winn Dixie is really a dog, and a friendly dog at that.
Winn Dixie introduces Opal to the local witch, and shows her what a wonderful friend Gloria Dump can be. And Opal even gets to know a couple of kids, though that’s a little more of a challenge.
Because of Winn Dixie is a humorous, heartwarming story about friendship and love, and the value of not only accepting but embracing people’s quirks and idiosyncrasies.
Recommended for ages 9-12, Winn Dixie is loved by kids and adults alike. For that reason it can be found just about anywhere books are sold or checked out!