Because of Winn-Dixie


Kate DiCamillo

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Because of Winn-Dixie Study Guide

Welcome to the LitCharts study guide on Kate DiCamillo's Because of Winn-Dixie. Created by the original team behind SparkNotes, LitCharts are the world's best literature guides.

Brief Biography of Kate DiCamillo

DiCamillo was born in Pennsylvania, but due to her childhood chronic pneumonia, she moved to Florida with her mother and older brother when she was four years old. Her father, an orthodontist, didn’t follow the family. DiCamillo went on to study English at the University of Florida; she graduated in 1987 and moved to Minneapolis in 1994. While working at a book warehouse in Minneapolis, DiCamillo became interested in children’s fiction and published Because of Winn-Dixie, her first book, in 2000. Since then, DiCamillo has written prolifically, publishing other children’s novels, chapter books for beginning readers, and picture books, as well as contributing short stories for various collections. Two of her novels, The Tale of Desperaux and Flora and Ulysses, were honored with Newbery Medals, while Winn-Dixie was a Newbery Honor Book. DiCamillo still lives in Minneapolis.
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Historical Context of Because of Winn-Dixie

Though there’s no mention of what might be happening in the wider world of the novel’s present (which is unspecified but could be any time in the late 20th century), Because of Winn-Dixie does draw heavily on the history of the American Civil War. Florida, where the novel takes place, was one of the original seven states to secede from the Union after Abraham Lincoln’s election as president in 1860. As a state with a small population, most of them slaves, few Floridians fought in the war—and as the war wore on, deserters from both the Confederate and Union armies escaped to the state. The war was, as Miss Franny Block declares, “hell”: at least 620,000 soldiers died over the course of the four-year conflict. Though the battles themselves were shockingly violent, most people died of disease or of injuries that, given the nature of medicine at the time, doctors couldn’t effectively treat. Until the Vietnam War in the 1970s, the Civil War casualty number was higher than all casualties from other U.S. military conflicts combined.

Other Books Related to Because of Winn-Dixie

In Because of Winn-Dixie, as well as in DiCamillo’s second novel Tiger Rising, DiCamillo explores how children handle the loss of a parent. Other novels that feature deceased or absent parents include Roald Dahl’s novels The BFG and James and the Giant Peach, the Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling, and Rodman Philbrick’s Freak the Mighty. As a novel about the relationship between a child and their dog, Winn-Dixie also shares a number of similarities with novels like Shiloh by Phyllis Reynolds Naylor, Where the Red Fern Grows by Wilson Rawls, and Sharon Creech’s verse novel Love That Dog. Within the book itself, the characters mention and read War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy, Esther Forbes’s Johnny Tremain, and Gone with the Wind by Margaret Mitchell.
Key Facts about Because of Winn-Dixie
  • Full Title: Because of Winn-Dixie
  • When Written: 1999
  • Where Written: Minneapolis, Minnesota
  • When Published: 2000
  • Literary Period: Contemporary
  • Genre: Children’s Novel
  • Setting: Naomi, Florida
  • Climax: During their search for Winn-Dixie, Opal and the preacher voice that Mama isn’t coming back and reaffirm their love for each other.
  • Antagonist: Though Opal at first believes that kids like Dunlap, Stevie, and Amanda are her enemies, she discovers that few people in life are true antagonists.
  • Point of View: First Person

Extra Credit for Because of Winn-Dixie

Double Whammy. Kate DiCamillo is one of only six authors who have won the Newbery Award twice; her novels The Tale of Desperaux and Flora and Ulysses won and earned her this distinction. Other authors who have won twice include Lois Lowry (for Number the Stars and The Giver), E.L. Konigsberg (for From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler and The View from Saturday), and Katherine Paterson (for Bridge to Terabithia and Jacob Have I Loved).