I read "Because of Winn Dixie" for my Children's Literature class this week. It was an easy and enjoyable read. Heres some thoughts on it.
“Because of Winn Dixie” transported me to a summer day in my childhood, unleashing forgotten senses. As I read it I could feel my tiny baby sneakers hit the dirt as I walked home from a friend’s house to the faint glow of my porch light waiting for me. I felt the hot summer sun on the top of my blonde pigtails and the sweet and sticky nectar of a defeated Popsicle slide down my hand. I heard the whiz of children’s bicycles fly past me as I holler after them “Wait for me!”
The hard times when you are learning all alone. Opal is feeling a loss that most kids don’t have to deal with. Opal doesn’t know how to understand what has happened. She just gives love. She gives love to the criminal and the witch and even her mama who abandoned her. Children only know how to love. They love so much that sometimes it hurts them. Gloria Dump tries to teach Opal, “only love what you got while you got it.” People can hurt you but you can’t let them keep hurting you. Opal learns to keep on loving what she does have: her Daddy, her friends, and her dog.
Opal is attracted to animals. The animals are innocent like children, like Opal. Opal feels hurt by her loss and solitude. Winn Dixie is always there to comfort Opal and others. Like when Miss Franny had her attacks, Winn Dixie consoled her with understanding. Preacher is hard for Opal to understand. She needs to really see him but he is always in his shell. One of the things that helped Opal was to see him love Winn Dixie the way she did. Opal loves Winn Dixie because he is apart of their family. Preacher accepts Winn Dixie as a part of their family too. This is an example of how Opal and Preacher feel the same bond with the lost mother.
My favorite part of the book was when they lost Winn Dixie in the thunderstorm. The loss of Winn Dixie to Opal represents the fear and hopelessness of losing her mama. Opal and Preacher were out in the rain searching and Preacher said they had to go home and in that moment Opal refers to him as Daddy. Throughout the whole book she calls him Preacher but in this instant she needs him as her father. Opal starts thinking of ten things about Winn Dixie to put on a poster to help find him but realizes no one could recognize him from those ten things just like ten things about her mama will not help her find her mama. Angrily she confronts the preacher saying that he always gives up and that he must have given up looking for mama too. The next moment Preacher stops being Preacher and becomes her Daddy. He tells Opal how much he misses her mama and how hard he tried to find her. He admits that he thinks she isn’t coming back. He cries to Opal saying how much he misses her. He is no longer demonstrating his nervous tick of scratching his nose or raising his shoulders to push into his turtle shell but is fully embracing himself to Opal. Opal sees her Daddy and not Preacher and comforts him. He was just as heartbroken as Opal. The lozenges tasted like this very sadness, coating his throat with the loss of her mama. As sad as it is that Opal doesn’t find her mama in the end, Opal and her Daddy find healing in each other.