Banned Books Week
Censorship Leaves Us in the Dark
September 22-September 28, 2019
This book is the most surprising book on the banned and challenged lists. I loved this book when I read it the first time shortly after it won the Newberry Honor. I thought it would make me cry and it didn't, fortunately. This is NOT one of those books where the dog dies! Surprisingly, this book was a gift from my 10-year-old niece who read it in school! Huzzah for her teacher for allowing kids to read this book!
I just adore this book about a lonely little girl and the ugly dog who works his way into her heart. He helps her make friends with other lonely people in town and connect with her emotionally distant Daddy. The story feels timeless- there's a brief mention of cars but it feels old-fashioned, like 1950s because of the rural Florida setting. That is what will make this book an enduring classic for generations.
I can certainly relate to India Opal and how much she loves Winn-Dixie. I fell in love with him too at the same moment Opal does when he smiles and sneezes and wags his tail. How could anyone NOT love Winn-Dixie? I like the moral message about befriending others who may be experiencing sorrow and loneliness but expressing it in negative ways. The characters are special and the adults stand out. Miss Franny Brock, the librarian who spends her days telling Opal about her past and encouraging Opal to read more. Her special candies are interesting and while I highly doubt the story could be true, the candies help bring Opal closer to the other children. Miss Gloria Dump is feared and labeled a witch because she's elderly and reclusive. She has demons in her past but certainly isn't a witch. Miss Gloria Dump is a wise and special woman. Otis, the musician who plays for animals only, is another lost soul befriended by Winn-Dixie and Opal. He's shy and sweet. I love his relationship with animals, especially Gertrude the parrot, who is the best character after Winn-Dixie!
The children are a little less memorable and more "types." Sweetie Pie, a younger girl, longs for a dog of her own. She latches on to Winn-Dixie and therefore Opal to be her friends. I sense loneliness for this little girl, hence her desire for a dog. The Dewbury brothers are stereotypical boys who taunt and tease Opal and fear Miss Gloria Dump and Amanda, the mean girl, all have their good points. This is the weak part of the story that puts it squarely in the middle-grades category.
I believe adults will enjoy this book too, for the most part. It's a good bedtime read. My sweet 10 year old niece gifted this to me after reading it in school. She knows how much I love dogs and how much I miss my childhood best friend. I had read it before and loved it. Ironically, I was going to gift it to HER this year.
Parents may object to the following:
a few "stupids" uttered by Opal about the boys
a few "retards" which I STRONGLY suggest the publisher remove if this isn't a period piece. If it's period, leave it and state the decade it's set in when that word was commonly tossed around as an insult.
a bottle tree to keep the ghosts of the past at bay