Because of Winn Dixie

Because of Winn Dixie by Kate DiCamillo: Review and Activities*This page contains affiliate links. Please read our disclosure policy for more information.

The Book

Title: Because of Winn-Dixie
Author: Kate DiCamillo
Age Range: 9-12
Grade Level: 4-7

Because of Winn-Dixie is about a girl name India Opal that claims ownership of a stray dog causing chaos in the local grocery store. Being new in town, Opal hasn’t made many friends, but Winn-Dixie changes all that by bringing her together with a host of interesting characters in their small town. Even though her mama left when she was three and it’s just her and the preacher (her daddy), Opal soon discovers that her heart can be full again…all because of Winn-Dixie.

My Thoughts

After reading The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane, I was itching to pick up another Kate DiCamillo book.  This one didn’t disappoint.  Even though I knew a movie version had come out a number of years ago, I like to read the book first!

Because of Winn-Dixie totally engages the reader.  Right away I liked India Opal and thought she had so much spunk! I love how the the author used a dog in this story to help Opal connect not only to her new community, but also to her daddy. Dogs certainly provide friendship and unconditional love and any child who has wanted desperately to take home a stray will be encouraged by Winn-Dixie.

There are some concepts in the story that are better suited for the older reader: Opal has a mother that left when she was three; Amanda has experienced the loss of a sibling; Gloria admits to have once had an addiction to alcohol. Be prepared to answer any questions your child may have concerning these sensitive subjects when you read the book. (I’ve included some links below to help you get started.)

We did rent the movie from the library after we (my daughter and I) finished reading the book.  As is common, the movie doesn’t follow the book exactly and my daughter was constantly pointing out the differences. Overall, we liked the movie, but the book was much better!

Resources for Teaching



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Taylor-Made Tales: The Dog’s Secret

Taylor-Made Tales: The Dog's Secret by Ellen Miles - Review and Activities*This page contains affiliate links. Please read our disclosure policy for more information.

The Book

Title: Taylor-Made Tales/The Dog’s Secret
Author: Ellen Miles
Age Range: 7-10 years
Grade Level: 2-5

Taylor-Made Tales/The Dog’s Secret is an easy read chapter book that blends two stories into one.  Cricket doesn’t want to be labeled “rambunctious” by the new teacher, Mr. Taylor, so she goes out of her way to follow rules and not stand out.  In fact, her whole class is hesitant about the new teacher, until Mr. Taylor engages them every afternoon in a story made up from items the kids had lost.  The story he tells is about a girl named Maisie and her dog Jack.  Jack is a very special dog with a secret talent and one day he disappears.  Maisie is afraid the secret is out and she will never see Jack again.

My Thoughts

I picked up this book at a local thrift store after checking the reviews for it on Amazon (you’ll find this is a very common thing for me to do!).  Apparently, there are several more in the series, all which tell different tales made up by Mr. Taylor and include five things chosen by the students.  The Dog’s Secret is a fun and light-hearted read.  Even though Maisie experiences loneliness and sadness over a missing pet, the situation is not traumatic for sensitive readers.

The chapters integrate both story lines of Cricket and Maisie seamlessly. Jack seems like that perfect dog companion that many kids dream of having growing up.  Themes of  patience, helpfulness, empathy, and acceptance can be found throughout the story. This is a must for any dog lover!


Resources for Teaching

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