I hadn’t even noticed, until now, that I had two Kate DiCamillo reviews lined up one right after another. This is another book that I read with my son, but then gave a 24-hour re-read in order to review it fairly. I remembered it, but not well enough.
I think that one of the reasons this keeps happening with DiCamillo books is that they are so short. It’s hard to remember something well when you spend so little time with it. I hate to say that the books lack depth, because they are sweet and poignant and you do get some complication of plot and some shades to the characters, but how deep can you go in such a short space of time? The plots—though they be chock-full—positively zoom from scene to scene. One never pauses to observe the surroundings. There are no wasted moments here, either, spent doing nothing more than exploring the characters in a more benign, plot-irrelevant scene. I suppose this type of writing is appropriate for younger readers and for those who just don’t want any sort of frill. But I would really like something more toothsome. Plus, the brevity doesn’t allow for much suspense.
Other than that, what is there to complain about in Because of Winn-Dixie? It is well-written (for all its brevity). It is sweet and wise, though I admit that sometimes everyone in this story seems too imperfectly perfect. Or would it be perfectly imperfect? I mean, everyone is clearly bummed out and broken, but they’re all doing it so beautifully and consciously. Then again, we are addressing kids here, and just exploring the sadness and the brokenness in life all mixed up with the love and happiness, well that’s a pretty big feat. There is a whole cast of interesting characters. A super-lovable dog. A strong-voiced, ten-year-old narrator. And a number of quirky things that just border on magic realism. There is, in the end, only two things that do actually have to be unreal, but there are many things—from giant jars of pickles to desks full of candy—that still seem enrobed in this Southern, small town magic. I also really appreciated that the religious element was portrayed positively.
Because of Winn-Dixie is the story of India Opal, just as she has moved to a small town in Florida, where her father is a preacher. She takes in a mangy mutt and together they begin to make a very odd assortment of friends around town. Some friends are made easier than others, and Opal soon discovers that she’s not alone in her pain (having lost her mother several years before) and helps the preacher to discover the same thing.
It’s a good book. I’m pretty sure it gets plenty of recommendations from teachers. It should. It’s not afraid to be real, but it’s a sweet, magical, interesting story, even though it lacks length and drama.
There is a live action Disney movie from 2005. It’s not supposed to be particularly awesome, but I’m going to watch it soon, anyhow. I’ll review it in a few.