Because of Winn-Dixie by Kate DiCamillo
You don’t have to look hard to find a person who ever had a beloved pet dog. You don’t even have to wander great distances to find a person whose life was saved by a dog. So it is no great stretch of the imagination that a stray dog could come into a lonely girl’s life and make things better for her.
In Because of Winn-Dixie, that girl was India Opal and the dog was Winn-Dixie. India Opal had just moved to a new town in Florida. She lived in a trailer park with her dad, a preacher. She was lonely. Then she found a stray dog at the grocery store. Taking care of the dog led her to meet other sad, lonely people who were also desperately in need of some friends.
You’d expect such a story to be sweet, perhaps even like spooning sugar right out of the sugar bowl. That’s OK, because sometimes you’re craving exactly that kind of story. I was, and that’s why I picked up Because of Winn-Dixie.
I was enjoying my sugar, too, until the author started serving it up with hard candy on top. That is, the main character was introduced to a hard candy that tasted like root beer and strawberry and sadness. Next thing you know, she was offering the candy to all of her new friends, and everyone who ate a piece told her exactly why they were sad. The story is itself like the candy—a whole lot of sweet with a strong dose of sadness—and in another book (one not about a stray dog), I might have found that idea interesting. Here, it just seemed like a lame and unnecessary way to get the characters to own up to their sadness.
While the strange candy took the grade down a notch, I liked the book overall. It had a comfy Southern feel to it.
Frindle by Andrew Clements
In an effort to create a new word (and annoy the heck out of his strict teacher), schoolboy Nick Allen decides to call a pen a “frindle,” and he gets all of his school friends to do the same. Soon everyone is using the word.
I see a lot of my younger self in Nick Allen. He is the kid I would have been if I had had any idea how to channel my rebellious energy. I suspect a lot of adults will feel the same way, so I recommend this book for both kids and adults.