This would be a great story to read with children of around ten or so. Young India Opal has just come with her preacher daddy to a new part of Florida. Sent by her father to the Winn-Dixie grocery store, she ends up bringing home a scruffy stray dog that was causing havoc among the fruit and vegetables.
Opal is a little lonely, but through her smiling dog, whom she christens Winn-Dixie, she meets and befriends various town characters. She’s missing her Mama more than usual, and prevails upon her father to tell her more about the woman who abandoned them. She talks herself into a job in the pet store, hears an old lady’s Civil War story, finds that kids who seemed to spurn her have their own worries, and is enlightened about the forgiving nature of love by an old woman who’s going blind.
It’s a very wise and warm little book, and surely a great antidote to the horrors of kids traumatised by school shootings and bullying. It’s not saccharine, but manages, through the voice of a questing child, to convey realistic optimism. It’s rare to feel so satisfied and uplifted on reaching the end of a story.