Copyright: 2000

Age: 9+

Summary:

A lonely, motherless, pastor's daughter adopts a stray dog that makes life easier after a move to a new town.

Sexuality: 0

A boy holds out his hand to help a girl up.

Violence: 2

A five-year-old boy is said to have drowned.
A girl asks if a man is a murderer. (He's not.)
A man says that he hit a police officer, knocked him unconscious, and was given a jail sentence.
A girl wonders if her dog got run over.
An old woman has a "fit" and shakes.
A boy who goes to war gets fleas and lice, is hot and cold, and gets shot at. His sisters and mother die of typhoid fever and his father in battle.

Language: 2

"Oh Lord."
"I swear."
"Pinched-face"
"Bald-headed babies"
"Stupid"
"Retarded"
"Witch"
A woman says, "War is hell." When a girl tells her "hell" is a "cuss word," she says, "War should be a cuss word too."

Christian Principles: Good

In simple, no-nonsense sentences, the reader will get a view of what life is like for a ten-year-old preacher's daughter in a small town. Whether her father is asking his congregation to pray for the mouse his dog caught or whether Opal herself is praying for her mother, Biblical truths are the central focus of this story.

Opal talks to God about everything, but does lie occasionally. The very premise of how Opal obtained Winn-Dixie, her dog, was because of deception. The lying is never punished, which is the one unfortunate thing in this story.

It's mentioned that Opal's mom left them when she was very small, and that she was an alocholic who couldn't stop drinking, as well as hated being a preacher's wife - feeling like a bug under a microscope. All throughout the book, Opal is inquisitive about her mother, praying for her, trying to pry information from her father about her. Her father still loves her mother, though, even though he tells his daughter that she is definitely not coming back.

Two boys call a woman a witch on many occasions. She is a former alcoholic and talks about having a tree where she hangs all of her empty bottles as symbols of what she has done wrong. She says something vague about "finding what's most important, which is different to everyone" when Opal asks how she stopped. Witches are later said to not exist and be a myth.

Much can be said about Opal and her father's desire to help those less fortunate, how they lovingly care for a dog in their care, and how the preacher used to be a missionary to India. They seem to be shining examples of a growing Christian family. At one point, Opal hurtfully tells her father, "You always give up! You're always pulling your head in your stupid old turtle shell! You probably gave up and didn't even look for my mother when she left!" But when he begins to cry, she regrets what she has said and comforts him compassionately.

Opal's employer is a kind-hearted animal lover, but a bit of a drifter and loner. He was put in jail for assaulting a police officer while he played his guitar on the side of the road.

The preacher prays in Christ's name and quotes Scripture: "Help us to love others as You love us" as well as sings hymns.

In the end, Opal and her father learn to let go of their mother, to be rid of the sadness and discontent in their hearts, and to learn how to give to others.


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