Sunday, May 3, 2009

Because of Winn-Dixie

Choosing a book to read that has been made into a feature film can be a bit tricky. Often times the book is much better than the movie. Sometimes the film is better but leaves out a lot of the plot from the book. Sometimes the film is only a glimpse of what the book was about. When I selected Kate DiCamillo's Newbery Honor book, Because of Winn-Dixie, I had already read The Tale of Despereaux and The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane, two other titles also written by DiCamillo. I thoroughly enjoyed both of those books and I couldn't remember why I hadn't read her Newbery Honor book. I was skeptical because I had heard that the film version of The Tale of Despereaux did not follow the book and wondered if Winn-Dixie would have the same fate. I'll admit that I was also curious about a book with "Winn-Dixie" in the title. Having lived in Florida for 17 years, I knew that the Winn-Dixie was a well-known supermarket chain in that state.

The book was wonderful and a really easy read. Opal is a charming character that claims a mangy-looking ownerless dog at the Winn-Dixie. She finds a friend in the dog and meets a host of unusual characters through the book that need a friend just as much as she does. Throughout the book Opal is also trying to understand why her mother left her father (the preacher) and her. Opal comes to understand that "you can't hold on to anything - you can only love what you've got while you've got it." With Winn-Dixie around, her father begins to come out of his "turtle shell" and Opal begins to realize that there is more than meets the eye when it comes to her friends Ms. Gloria Dump, Ms. Fanny Block, Otis, the Dewberry boys, Sweetie Pie Thomas, and pinch-faced Amanda.

Overall, the movie stayed true to the book and I enjoyed it. Jeff Daniels plays the preacher dad and Cicely Tyson and Eva Marie Saint play Miss Block and Miss Dump, respectively. A few characters, such as the trailer park manager and the local policeman, had extra parts in the movie. The policeman had some comical scenes and Mr. Alfred, the trailer park manager came to tolerate Winn-Dixie after a rocky start. The Dewberry boys also had some funny scene-stealers. The part of Otis, the pet shop clerk, was played by the musician Dave Matthews. He plays the socially awkward guitarist who has a calming effect on all the animals. I would recommend reading the book first (Kate DiCamillo's first book is as awesome as the other two I read!) and then seeing the movie. Readers will not be disappointed with the movie version.

The Lorax, Didactic Literature, Edwurd Fudwupper Fibbed Big, and The Great Kapok Tree

The Lorax
is considered didactic because it teaches the consequences of misusing the environment. Today, didactic children's books are published more as cautionary tales of what happens when we make inappropriate choices. Edwurd Fudwupper Fibbed Big, by Berkeley Breathed, tells the story of Edwurd and his reputation of fibbing. As it turns out, his sister Fannie is the culprit of the lie this time. Readers will appreciate Edwurd's fantastic creation of the chain of events that leads to the broken pig. They will also learn the importance of telling the truth and not following in the footsteps of someone who is making poor choices.

Another title, The Great Kapok Tree by Lynne Cherry, is also a great piece of didactic literature. The story could be used to teach students about the destruction/conservation of the rainforest and the plants and animals of this ecosystem. The beautiful illustrations are also great teaching tools. Although this title was written in 1990 I chose it because the students in my class really enjoyed the book and gained a greater understanding of the effects one person can have on the rainforest habitat.

Dr. Seuss and Tension In Today's Literature

Don't Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus! by Mo Willems contains a bit of tension! As students read the book they realize that the pigeon has been told not to drive the bus. They also realize that the pigeon is pleading and begging, using every possible reason that seems to make sense, to get permission to drive. I'm certain that readers of all ages can relate to this type of persuasion! Students will also relate to the story because they know that the grown pigeon, just like their parents, has good reasons for not allowing the pigeon to drive the bus. They also have an idea about what will happen if the pigeon gets behind the wheel. I believe that this book appeals to readers because they envision themselves driving a big bus!

David Goes to School. by David Shannon also contains tension. School-age readers will read about David's behavior and think "He shouldn't be doing that!" The readers know and follow the rules. They do not like getting into trouble and I believe it makes them a bit nervous when they see David making more and more poor choices. This book appeals to children because they are able to see what happens and how other students react when someone doesn't follow the rules.