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.