Monday, March 8, 2010

Because of Winn-Dixie

It's been a long time since I've done a book review. Because it's been a long time since I've read a book.

I did read Silas Marner in January after boards. And I liked it more than I thought I would. Granted, it did have the overly long conversation in the tavern that many of the classic 1800s English novels seem to love.

I actually have been reading. For the most part, it is material that no one wants me reviewing on my blog. No doubt my review of Anesthesia and Co-Existing Disease would be enthralling, but I'll spare you. Because it's Monday.

I've also been reading to Bug. My boys and I read together every single night. Call it a family tradition (my mother read to us every night.) It used to picture books: Where the Wild Things Are, Harold and the Purple Crayon, The Very Hungry Caterpillar, Verdi. With Monkey, it still is.

But since Bug is now a little older, we've been branching out to novels. We've read Winnie-the-Pooh, Charlotte's Web, Black Beauty, Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle, The Little House on the Prairie series.

And then I was stumped. I didn't know what to read next.

Until I came across a review for Kate DiCamillo's books. The review was so complementary that I immediately decided they would be Bug's and mine next books.

We started with Because of Winn-Dixie.

Told from the point of view of 10-year-old India Opal who lives with her father, this is a story told openly and honestly. After all, given the chance, children will be open and honest, even if to a fault.

India Opal's mother left her for her father to raise when she was 3 years old. Lonely and feeling disconnected from everyone around her, she happens upon a stray dog. And through Winn-Dixie, she finds friendship, forgiveness, and love.

There were mature themes throughout the book, including discussions about alcohol abuse, death of a child, and parental abandonment. But the story presents them simply and openly, allowing Bug and I to talk about the issues without them feeling awkward or overwhelming.

I'll be honest. I'm in love with this book. The writing, while simple enough that my seven-year-old understood every line, is poetic and haunting. Over and over, I found myself aching a little because of the sadness and beauty. There is humor and anger and happiness.

There is no exciting story line. No climax of the plot. This is a story about relationships and emotions, not about plot twists or surprise endings. It is written for children. I saw Bug connect to the heroine and her dog more than he has connected to any book so far. But the writing and themes made me enjoy this book just as much as my son.

I can't wait to read the rest of DiCamillo's books!

And if you have any suggestions for books to read out loud to a very smart seven year old boy, please let me know! We only have 3 DiCamillo books left!


  1. I loved Bruce Coville's my Teacher is an Alien books.... Maybe the Fablehaven Books by Brandon Mull but those do get a little intense...or some of the Newberry books like From the Mixed up file of Ms.Basil E Frankwiler...or My side of the Mountain where he lives off the land on his own. Does that help? I have read some great things about DiCamillo books to I need to read one soon.

  2. I know when I was a kid, the school library had a little award you could get for reading a big list of books they had--I think the books were all award winners of some sort--you might look into Bug's school library and see if they have any such lists. Otherwise, I'd go with the past Newbery winners, found here:
    Also, hard to go wrong with Lois Lowry and Roald Dahl. I also thought this list looked good: Good luck. I love and look forward to reading more advanced books with my own girls. Don't get me wrong, the picture books are wonderful in their own ways, but there is something so wonderful about getting lost in a real story. You are a great mom for being so dedicated to your boys.

  3. Also, I think I was about Bug's age when I got really into Boxcar Children, and Nancy Drew--maybe Hardy Boys (since he's a boy)? Just some more thoughts. And I loved From the Mixed-Up Files...--such a great one. But those are all pretty much on that second link I mentioned above.

  4. Saw the movie, haven't read the book. I might pick up the book after reading your review.

  5. When I worked at a middle school, the 6th graders did a book club on this book. I LOVED it and so did they.

  6. I never read that book, but I did see the movie. I'm trying to remember some of the books I loved as a kid. The Roald Dahl books are excellent, of course. Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Mathilda, Fantastic Mr. Fox...

  7. I'm looking forward to reading thee book with the three girls. Thanks for the tip.
    I'm not sure if you remember:along with the other suggestions, we read Bobsey Twins, Rebecca and Sunny Brook Farm, Anne of Green Gables sereies, Heidi series, Polyanna series, Freckles and other Gene S. Porter books, and animal books of all kinds, Benji, Barry the Wolf Dog, Call of the Wild-- Books with elephants and tigers, foxes, wolves, rabbits and horses. There is Ables's Island and Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe. I think the boys enjoyed the reading as much as the girls so I don't think they are gender specific.
    Yes, I second that you a re a dedicated and devoted mother. Send a hug around your reading circle.

  8. I've heard of this book. Did they make a movie from it?

  9. my brother loved Hank the Cow Dog. I loved poems by Shel Silverstein and Rohl Dohl also Bunnicula.