This review was originally posted on amazon on February 19, 2003.
Kate Dicamillo has written a little gem of a book. When India Opal moves to Naomi, Florida, she is both motherless and friendless. The story really begins after Opal meets and adopts Winn-Dixie, a mangy but open-hearted dog who has a number of unique talents, including the ability to smile.
I read this book aloud to my first-grade daughter, and she absolutely loved it. When we finished, she said "No wonder this book has a medal on the cover. I want to read it all over again."
She laughed at Winn-Dixie and his antics, but she still understood the true message of this story: that even kids can have sadness in their lives, but that knowing sadness sometimes makes life itself sweeter. Opal's sadness is that her mother has left her and her father and is apparently never coming back. Each character in this book has some sorrow all their own, and Winn-Dixie, a dog with a talent for friendship, brings this group of lonely people together and creates, more or less, a family for Opal.
I can't recommend this book highly enough -- if you are lucky enough to have a daughter in grade school, read this book to her. She will love it. You will too.