Ten-year-old Opal and her father, the preacher, move into the Friendly Corner Trailer Park in Naomi, Florida so her father can take a new job. Opal heads over to the local Winn-Dixie grocery store to pick up a few things and rescues a dog that somehow got into the store and was causing all kinds of trouble. She names the dog Winn-Dixie and takes him home, although she’s not sure what the preacher will say.
Her father reminds her that there are no dogs allowed at the Friendly Corner Trailer Park, but Opal says he’s always telling her to help the less fortunate and that she found this less fortunate—dog—at the grocery store. Since there’s nothing he can say about that, Winn-Dixie gets to stay. Opal cleans him up, finds him to be a great listener and her new best friend.
Opal and Winn-Dixie spend a lot of time together meeting people in Naomi, and most the new friendships are instigated by Winn-Dixie. In fact, it’s because of Winn-Dixie that Opal learns to make new friends, forgive, and start over. The elderly Gloria Dump is my favorite new friend of Opal and Winn-Dixie’s. She tells Opal that you can’t judge people by the things they’ve done alone. You’ve got to think about what they’re doing now. The more Opal gets to know her new friends, the more she learns about their lives and comes to see the obstacles that each person has overcome to be the person they are now. This way of thinking gives Opal a lot of compassion for people, including her parents. She and Winn-Dixie have to rely on each other to get through their own struggles to start over fresh.
This is a sweet story told in first person. It’s a character-driven book that doesn’t have much of a plot other than Opal and Winn-Dixie’s adventures together. Things do come together for a strong ending, but it’s a drama, not an action adventure, so though it might not appear to be the book for everyone, I think everyone would enjoy it to a certain degree. It’s really short and could be read in a day. What I liked most is that even though life is hard, it is what you make it. So you could sit in your house and entertain yourself, alone, or you could go out and instigate friendships. It might not be easy at first, but a friendship is always worth the effort. People weren’t designed to be alone, and neither were dogs. Highly recommended.
Age Range: 8-12
Part of a Series: No
Publisher: Candlewick Press