Because of Winn-Dixie Signature Edition

Overview

Ten-year-old India Opal Buloni describes her first summer in the town of Naomi, Florida, and all the good things that happen to her because of her big ugly dog Winn-Dixie.

Ten-year-old India Opal Buloni describes her first summer in the town of Naomi, Florida, and all the good things that happen to her because of her big ugly dog Winn-Dixie.

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Overview

Ten-year-old India Opal Buloni describes her first summer in the town of Naomi, Florida, and all the good things that happen to her because of her big ugly dog Winn-Dixie.

Ten-year-old India Opal Buloni describes her first summer in the town of Naomi, Florida, and all the good things that happen to her because of her big ugly dog Winn-Dixie.

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Editorial Reviews

From Barnes & Noble
India Opal Buloni, called Opal by the people who know her best, thought love walked out on her when her mother left seven years ago. Ever since, this young girl has waited for her mother's return, questioning her father about this woman, now a stranger, so that she would recognize her when she came back. But in waiting, the heroine of Kate DiCamillo's heartfelt debut story, Because of Winn-Dixie, learns valuable lessons about friendship, love, and understanding.

The summer ten-year-old Opal and her father move to Naomi, Florida, is the same summer Opal adopts Winn-Dixie, the scrappy dog abandoned in the town grocery store. Her canine pal, with a lively spirit matching its new owner, accompanies Opal as she meets new people. One afternoon Winn-Dixie wanders off, and Opal finds her dog snacking on peanut butter at the house of the woman deemed a witch by Opal's bothersome playmates. To her surprise, this "witch" is actually Gloria Dump who has wrinkly old skin and wears a big floppy hat adorned with printed flowers. In their regular visits, Opal reads Gone with the Wind to Gloria, whose eyes have weakened with age, and tells her about her latest adventures. In turn, this "witch" acts as a mother-figure to Opal, teaching her about being tolerant of others and their mistakes.

Opal also befriends the very wealthy librarian Miss Franny Block, who shares great stories about her past, including a tale about her great-grandfather, whose family members died while he fought for the South in the Civil War. Grief-stricken after his return from battle, he decided he wanted to live the remainder of his life filled with sweetness. Thus, he invented Littmus Lozenge candies that tasted like a combination of rootbeer and strawberry with a secret ingredient mixed in -- sorrow. In Because of Winn-Dixie, these candies symbolize that even though life sometimes deals people a bit of sadness, there is always so much to appreciate.

This lesson initially escapes Opal, as she bemoans the loss of her mother. But over time, Opal makes new friends, and her days become increasingly sweet. She finds charm in quiet Otis, a former jailbird and now pet-shop worker whose lyrical music touches all of the animals in the shop. She reaches out to the pinch-faced Amanda who has experienced a deep tragedy at a young age. And she learns to tolerate the bothersome Dewberry brothers who tease her (as many boys do when they have fond feelings toward a girl).

Enveloped by the security that her new community brings, Opal finally appreciates life's treasures and begins to accept that her mother is never coming back. By the end of Because of Winn-Dixie, Opal truly understands Gloria has been telling her all along: "...[Y]ou can't hold on to anything. ...[Y]ou can only love what you've got while you've got it." The spirit of DiCamillo's delightful story about Opal echoes long after the last page has been read.

--Soozan Baxter

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
DiCamillo's debut novel, a 2001 Newbery Honor Book, percolates with heartfelt emotion and eccentric Southern color as superbly performed by Tony Award-winning actress Jones. Ten-year-old Opal, lonely in the Florida town where she has just moved with her preacher father, instantly takes a shine to a scraggly stray dog she encounters in the local Winn-Dixie supermarket. The pooch, named for their meeting place, becomes a trusted companion with whom Opal can share her thoughts and fears, and her hurt, confused feelings about the mother who left the family when Opal was three. Winn-Dixie is soon helping Opal in other ways, too. The dog's "smile" and sweet temperament act as ice breakers that allow Opal to meet a whole new group of friends who grow to be an unusual extended family. Jones imbues her depiction of Opal with a tone of youthful, hopeful wonder and skillfully transforms her voice to distinguish the other older, life-weathered characters. A Tennessee native, she never sounds hokey as she adopts a Southern accent, and she effortlessly slips into a compelling storytelling rhythm. This is a top-notch treatment of an award-winning tale. Ages 8-up. Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
Children's Literature - Children's Literature
Imagine naming a dog "Winn-Dixie" after the grocery store. Your own name causes kids to mock you "Lunch Meat!" That partly describes India Opal Buloni, a preacher's daughter, who tells us about her first summer in Naomi, Florida. Opal adopts the lovable, mangy dog whose personality changes her life and the lives of the quirky characters in this rural community. The kids think Gloria Dump is a witch but Opal discovers a kind, wrinkled old lady with bad eyesight who wins her friendship when she says, "Since I don't see so well, why don't you tell me everything about yourself so I can see you with my heart." Opal couldn't be happier. "I'd been waiting for a long time to tell some person everything about me, I did." A splendid story with heart, humor and hope. This is Newbery quality. Reviewer: Jan Lieberman
From The Critics
The quick beginning, an essential feature of well-written children's books, carries Because of Winn-Dixie forward quite effectively. The stage is set in the first sentence: "My name is India Opal Buloni, and last summer my daddy, the preacher, sent me to the store for a box of macaroni-and-cheese, some white rice, and two tomatoes, and I came back with a dog." Ten-year-old Opal then proceeds to tell the funny story of a stray dog found in the produce department of the Winn-Dixie grocery store, where she calls him as if he were her own in order to save him from the pound. Because of Winn-Dixie is indeed a dog story, but it is also the story of a child, lonely yet resourceful, who has just recently moved to Naomi, Florida, with her father. It is the story of a motherless child, who longs for the love and comfort that a mother could provide. It is the story of a character finding her way in the world, a character seemingly tentative, yet as starkly defined as her red hair and the big, ugly, smiling stray dog she takes home, washes, and makes her own. And it is the story of Opal's developing friendships with distinctive, well-drawn characters—old Gloria Dump, who is almost blind; the librarian, Miss Franny Block; shy Otis at the pet store—encounters made possible, one way or another, because of the dog, Winn-Dixie. In twenty-six short chapters, DiCamillo has crafted a fine, economical story told in the authentic voice of a child, using regional language and vivid description in a clear, straightforward way. There is immediacy of feeling in this book, perfectly expressing the secret inner life that every child knows. Because of her resourcefulness, demonstrated in the openingchapter and throughout the book at every turn, Opal develops and grows as a character, in both her inner and her outer life. All of this is accomplished through a story worth telling. Children will enjoy Opal's abiding humor and Winn-Dixie's disarming and endearing ways, and the funny and important things that happen when the two of them get together. 2000, Candlewick, $15.99. Ages 9 to 12. Reviewer: Kathie Krieger Cerra — The Five Owls, November/December 2000 (Vol. 15 No. 2)
From The Critics
When ten-year-old Opeal Buloni and her preacher father moved to Naomi, Florida, she adopts a dog and names him Winn-Dixie (after the supermarket where they met). Opal was 3 when her mother left the family. Her father won't speak of her mother. The young girl is lonely, but with the help of her friendly dog, she makes new friends and discovers that life still has a great deal to offer both she and her father. Superb narration by Cherry Jones.
Esme R. Codell
This complicated and wonderful story is not so much about a dog as it is about friendship and loving what you got while you got it.
Bookbag Magazine
Esmé Raji Codell
This complicated and wonderful story is not so much about a dog as it is about friendship and loving what you got while you got it.
Bookbag Magazine
Kirkus Reviews
A 10-year old girl learns to adjust to a strange town, makes some fascinating friends, and fills the empty space in her heart thanks to a big old stray dog in this lyrical, moving, and enchanting book by a fresh new voice. India Opal's mama left when she was only three, and her father, "the preacher," is absorbed in his own loss and in the work of his new ministry at the Open-Arms Baptist Church of Naomi [Florida]. Enter Winn-Dixie, a dog who "looked like a big piece of old brown carpet that had been left out in the rain." But, this dog had a grin "so big that it made him sneeze." And, as Opal says, "It's hard not to immediately fall in love with a dog who has a good sense of humor." Because of Winn-Dixie, Opal meets Miss Franny Block, an elderly lady whose papa built her a library of her own when she was just a little girl and she's been the librarian ever since. Then, there's nearly blind Gloria Dump, who hangs the empty bottle wreckage of her past from the mistake tree in her back yard. And, Otis, oh yes, Otis, whose music charms the gerbils, rabbits, snakes and lizards he's let out of their cages in the pet store. Brush strokes of magical realism elevate this beyond a simple story of friendship to a well-crafted tale of community and fellowship, of sweetness, sorrow and hope. And, it's funny, too. A real gem. (Fiction. 9-12)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780763651855
  • Publisher: Candlewick Press
  • Publication date: 10/26/2010
  • Edition description: Signed Signature Edition
  • Pages: 192
  • Sales rank: 1,143,391
  • Age range: 8 - 12 Years
  • Product dimensions: 5.60 (w) x 7.10 (h) x 0.80 (d)

Meet the Author

Kate DiCamillo
Kate DiCamillo is the author of The Magician’s Elephant, a New York Times bestseller; The Tale of Despereaux, which was awarded the Newbery Medal; Because of Winn Dixie, a Newbery Honor book; and six books starring Mercy Watson, including the Theodor Seuss Geisel Honor Book Mercy Watson Goes for a Ride. She lives in Minneapolis.

Biography

Kate DiCamillo was born in Philadelphia, moved to Florida's warmer climate when she was five years old, and landed in Minneapolis in her 20s.

While working at a children's bookstore, DiCamillo wrote her first novel, Because of Winn-Dixie (2000). It was inspired by one of the worst winters in Minnesota, when she became homesick for Florida after overhearing a little girl with a southern accent. One thing led to another, and soon DiCamillo had created the voice of Opal Buloni, a resilient ten-year-old girl who has just moved to a small town in Florida with her father. Opal's mother abandoned the family when she was three years old, and her father has a hard time explaining why.

Thoug her father is busy and she has no friends, Opal's life takes a turn for the better when she adopts a fun-loving stray dog, Winn-Dixie (named after the supermarket where she found him, out in the parking lot). With Winn-Dixie as her guide, Opal makes friends with the eccentric people of her new town and even convinces her father to talk about her mother. Through Opal, readers are given a gift: a funny and heartrending story of how one girl's spirit can change her life and others'. Critics loved the book as much as readers, and in 2001, Because of Winn-Dixie was named a Newbery Honor Book.

DiCamillo's second novel, The Tiger Rising (2001), also deals with the importance of friendships, families, and making changes. Twelve-year-old Rob Horton and his father are dealing with grief, anger, and isolation after moving to Lister, Florida, six months after Rob's mother succumbs to cancer. Rob's father has a job at a motel (where they both also live), but it barely pays the bills. Struggling through the loss of his mother, Rob stifles his many confusing emotions as he battles bullies at his new school, worries about a rash on his legs, and copes with living in poverty.

In many ways, The Tiger Rising is a darker, more challenging story than Because of Winn-Dixie, but there is a similar light of deliverance in this beautiful novel: the healing power of friendship. Two meetings change Rob's life. First, he encounters a caged lion in the woods. Shortly thereafter he meets Sistine, who has recently moved to Lister after her parents' divorce. Sistine and Rob are polar opposites -- she stands up to the school bullies and lets out every bit of her anger at her parents' divorce and her relocation. Through Sistine, Rob recognizes himself in the caged lion, and the story of how the two children free the beast is one of the most engaging reads in contemporary young adult fiction. With the lion free, Rob is free to grieve the loss of his mother and move on with his bittersweet new life in Lister. A National Book Award finalist, The Tiger Rising is hard to put down as it overflows with raw, engaging emotion.

In 2003, DiCamillo's third novel, The Tale of Despereaux, was released to the delight of readers and critics alike. This odd but enthralling fairy tale also touches on some of the topics from her first two novels -- parental abandonment and finding the courage to be yourself. The hero, Despereaux Tilling, is a mouse who has always been different from the rest of his family, and to make matters worse, he has broken a serious rule: interacting with humans, particularly Princess Pea, who captures his heart. When Despereaux finds himself in trouble with the mouse community, he is saddened to learn that his father will not defend him. Characters in the tale are Princess Pea, whose mother died after seeing a rat in her soup; King Pea, who, in his grief, declares that no soup may be served anywhere in the kingdom; Miggery Sow, a servant girl who dreams of being a princess after being sold into servitude by her father after her mother dies; and Roscuro, a villainous rat with a curious soup obsession.

The story of how the characters' paths cross makes The Tale of Despereaux an adventurous read, reminiscent of Grimm's fairy tales. In the spirit of love and forgiveness, Despereaux changes everyone's life, including his own. As the unnamed, witty narrator of the novel tells us, "Every action, reader, no matter how small, has a consequence." Kate DiCamillo's limitless imagination and her talent for emotional storytelling earned her one of the most prestigious honors a children's author can receive -- in 2004, she was awarded the Newbery Medal.

Good To Know

DiCamillo wrote The Tale of Despereaux for a friend's son, who had asked her to write a story for him about a hero with large ears.

In our interview, DiCamillo shared some other fun facts with us: :

"I can't cook and I'm always on the lookout for a free meal."

"I love dogs and I'm an aunt to a very bad dog named Henry."

"My first job was at McDonald's. I was overjoyed when I got a nickel raise."

"I'm a pretty boring person. I like reading. I like eating dinner out with friends. I like walking Henry. And I like to laugh."

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    1. Hometown:
      Minneapolis, Minnesota
    1. Date of Birth:
      March 25, 1964
    2. Place of Birth:
      Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
    1. Education:
      B.A. in English, University of Florida at Gainesville, 1987

Read an Excerpt

Excerpt from:

Because of Winn-Dixie

Chapter One

My name is India Opal Buloni, and last summer my daddy, the preacher, sent me to the store for a box of macaroni-and-cheese, some white rice, and two tomatoes and I came back with a dog. This is what happened: I walked into the produce section of the Winn-Dixie grocery store to pick out my two tomatoes and I almost bumped right into the store manager. He was standing there all red-faced, screaming and waving his arms around.

"Who let a dog in here?" he kept on shouting. "Who let a dirty dog in here?"

At first, I didn't see a dog. There were just a lot of vegetables rolling around on the floor, tomatoes and onions and green peppers. And there was what seemed like a whole army of Winn-Dixie employees running around waving their arms just the same way the store manager was waving his.

And then the dog came running around the corner. He was a big dog. And ugly. And he looked like he was having a real good time. His tongue was hanging out and he was wagging his tail. He skidded to a stop and smiled right at me. I had never before in my life seen a dog smile, but that is what he did. He pulled back his lips and showed me all his teeth. Then he wagged his tail so hard that he knocked some oranges off a display, and they went rolling everywhere, mixing in with the tomatoes and onions and green peppers.

The manager screamed, "Somebody grab that dog!"

The dog went running over to the manager, wagging his tail and smiling. He stood up on his hind legs. You could tell that all he wanted to do was get face to face with the manager and thank him for the good time he was having in the produce department, but somehow he ended up knocking the manager over. And the manager must have been having a bad day, because lying there on the floor, right in front of everybody, he started to cry. The dog leaned over him, real concerned, and licked his face.

"Please," said the manager. "Somebody call the pound."

"Wait a minute!" I hollered. "That's my dog. Don't call the pound."

All the Winn-Dixie employees turned around and looked at me, and I knew I had done something big. And maybe stupid, too. But I couldn't help it. I couldn't let that dog go to the pound.

"Here, boy," I said.

The dog stopped licking the manager's face and put his ears up in the air and looked at me, like he was trying to remember where he knew me from.

"Here, boy," I said again. And then I figured that the dog was probably just like everybody else in the world, that he would want to get called by a name, only I didn't know what his name was, so I just said the first thing that came into my head. I said, "Here, Winn-Dixie."

And that dog came trotting over to me just like he had been doing it his whole life.

The manager sat up and gave me a hard stare, like maybe I was making fun of him.

"It's his name," I said. "Honest."

The manager said, "Don't you know not to bring a dog into a grocery store?"

"Yes sir," I told him. "He got in by mistake. I'm sorry. It won't happen again."

"Come on, Winn-Dixie," I said to the dog.

I started walking and he followed along behind me as I went out of the produce department and down the cereal aisle and past all the cashiers and out the door.

Once we were safe outside, I checked him over real careful and he didn't look that good. He was big, but skinny; you could see his ribs. And there were bald patches all over him, places where he didn't have any fur at all. Mostly, he looked like a big piece of old brown carpet that had been left out in the rain.

"You're a mess," I told him. "I bet you don't belong to anybody."

He smiled at me. He did that thing again, where he pulled back his lips and showed me his teeth. He smiled so big that it made him sneeze. It was like he was saying, "I know I'm a mess. Isn't it funny?"

It's hard not to immediately fall in love with a dog who has a good sense of humor.

"Come on," I told him. "Let's see what the preacher has to say about you."

And the two of us, me and Winn-Dixie, started walking home.

Chapter Two

That summer I found Winn-Dixie was also the summer me and the preacher moved to Naomi, Florida, so he could be the new preacher at the Open Arms Baptist Church of Naomi. My daddy is a good preacher and a nice man, but sometimes it's hard for me to think about him as my daddy, because he spends so much time preaching or thinking about preaching or getting ready to preach. And so, in my mind, I think of him as "the preacher." Before I was born, he was a missionary in India and that is how I got my first name. But he calls me by my second name, Opal, because that was his mother's name. And he loved her a lot.

Anyway, while me and Winn-Dixie walked home, I told him how I got my name and I told him how I had just moved to Naomi. I also told him about the preacher and how he was a good man, even if he was too distracted with sermons and prayers and suffering people to go grocery shopping.

"But you know what?" I told Winn-Dixie, "you are a suffering dog, so maybe he will take to you right away. Maybe he'll let me keep you."

Winn-Dixie looked up at me and wagged his tail. He was kind of limping like something was wrong with one of his legs. And I have to admit, he stunk. Bad. He was an ugly dog, but already, I loved him with all my heart.

When we got to the Friendly Corners Trailer Park, I told Winn-Dixie that he had to behave right and be quiet, because this was an all adult trailer park and the only reason I got to live in it was because the preacher was a preacher and I was a good, quiet kid. I was what the Friendly Corners Trailer Park manager, Mr. Alfred, called " an exception." And I told Winn-Dixie he had to act like an exception, too; specifically, I told him not to pick any fights with Mr. Alfred's cats or Mrs. Detweller's little yappie Yorkie dog, Samuel. Winn-Dixie looked up at me while I was telling him everything, and I swear he understood.

"Sit," I told him when we got to my trailer. He sat right down. He had good manners. "Stay here," I told him. "I'll be right back."

The preacher was sitting in the living room, working at the little foldout table. He had papers spread all around him and he was rubbing his nose, which always means he is thinking. Hard.

"Daddy?" I said.

"Hmmm," he said back.

"Daddy, do you know how you always tell me that we should help those less fortunate than ourselves?"

"Mmmmmm-hmmm," he said. He rubbed his nose and looked around at his papers.

"Well," I said, "I found a Less Fortunate at the grocery store."

"Is that right?" he said.

"Yes sir," I told him. I stared at the preacher really hard. Sometimes he reminded me of a turtle hiding inside its shell, in there thinking about things and not ever sticking his head out into the world. "Daddy, I was wondering. Could this Less Fortunate, could he stay with us for a while?"

Finally the preacher looked up at me. "Opal," he said, "what are you talking about?"

"I found a dog," I told him. "And I want to keep him."

"No dogs," the preacher said. "We've talked about this before. You don't need a dog."

"I know it," I said. "I know I don't need a dog. But this dog needs me. Look," I said. I went to the trailer door and I hollered, "Winn-Dixie!"

Winn-Dixie's ears shot up in the air and he grinned and sneezed, and then he came limping up the steps and into the trailer and put his head right in the preacher's lap, right on top of a pile of papers.

The preacher looked at Winn-Dixie. He looked at his ribs and his matted-up fur and the places where he was bald. The preacher's nose wrinkled up. Like I said, the dog smelled pretty bad.

Winn-Dixie looked up at the preacher. He pulled back his lips and showed the preacher all of his crooked yellow teeth and wagged his tail and knocked some of the preacher's papers off the table. Then he sneezed and some more papers fluttered to the floor.

"What did you call this dog?" the preacher asked.

"Winn-Dixie," I whispered. I was afraid to say anything too loud. I could see that Winn-Dixie was having a good effect on the preacher. He was making him poke his head out of his shell.

"Well," said the preacher. "He's a stray if I've ever seen one." He put down his pencil and scratched Winn-Dixie behind the ears. "And a Less Fortunate, too. That's for sure. Are you looking for a home?" the preacher asked, real soft, to Winn-Dixie.

Winn-Dixie wagged his tail.

"Well," the preacher said. "I guess you've found one."

Chapter Three

I started in on Winn-Dixie right away, trying to clean him up. First, I gave him a bath. I used the garden hose and some baby shampoo. He stood still for it, but I could tell he didn't like it. He looked insulted, and the whole time, he didn't show me his teeth or wag his tail once. After he was all washed and dried, I brushed him good. I used my own hairbrush and worked real hard at all the knots and patches of fur stuck together. He didn't mind being brushed. He wiggled his back, like it felt pretty good.

The whole time I was working on him, I was talking to him. And he listened. I told him how we were alike. "See," I said, "you don't have any family and neither do I. I've got the preacher, of course. But I don't have a mama. I mean I have one, but I don't know where she is. She left when I was three years old. I can't hardly remember her. And I bet you don't remember your mama much either. So we're almost like orphans."

Winn-Dixie looked straight at me when I said that to him, like he was feeling relieved to finally have somebody understand his situation. I nodded my head at him and went on talking.

"I don't even have any friends, because I had to leave them all behind when we moved here from Watley. Watley's up in north Florida. Have you ever been to north Florida?"

Winn-Dixie looked down at the ground, like he was trying to remember if he had.

"You know what?" I said. "Ever since we moved here, I've been thinking about my mama extra-extra hard, more than I ever did when I was in Watley."

Winn-Dixie twitched his ears and raised his eyebrows.

"I think the preacher thinks about my mama all the time, too. He's still in love with her; I know that because I heard the ladies at the church in Watley talking about him. They said he's still hoping she'll come back. But he doesn't tell me that. He won't talk to me about her at all. I want to know more about her. But I'm afraid to ask the preacher; I'm afraid he'll get mad at me."

Winn-Dixie looked at me hard, like he was trying to say something.

"What?" I said.

He stared at me.

"You think I should make the preacher tell me about her?"

Winn-Dixie looked at me so hard he sneezed.

"I'll think about it," I said.

When I was done working on him, Winn-Dixie looked a whole lot better. He still had his bald spots, but the fur that he did have cleaned up nice. It was all shiny and soft. You could still see his ribs, but I intended to feed him good and that would take care of that. I couldn't do anything about his crooked yellow teeth because he got into a sneezing fit every time I started brushing them with my toothbrush, and I finally had to give up. But for the most part, he looked a whole lot better, and so I took him into the trailer and showed him to the preacher.

"Daddy," I said.

"Hmmm," he said. He was working on a sermon and kind of muttering to himself.

"Daddy, I wanted to show you the new Winn-Dixie."

The preacher put down his pencil and rubbed his nose, and finally, he looked up.

"Well," he said, smiling real big at Winn-Dixie, "well, now. Don't you look handsome."

Winn-Dixie smiled back at the preacher. He went over and put his head in the preacher's lap.

"He smells nice, too," said the preacher. He rubbed Winn-Dixie's head and looked into his eyes.

"Daddy," I said, real quick before I lost all my nerve, "I've been talking to Winn-Dixie."

"Is that right?" the preacher said; he scratched Winn-Dixie's head.

"I've been talking to him and he agreed with me that, since I'm ten years old, you should tell me ten things about my mama. Just ten things, that's all."

The preacher stopped rubbing Winn-Dixie's head and held real still. I could see him thinking about pulling his head back into his shell.

"One thing for each year I've been alive," I told him. "Please."

Winn-Dixie looked up at the preacher and kind of gave him a nudge with his nose.

The preacher sighed. He said to Winn-Dixie, "I should have guessed you were going to be trouble." Then he looked at me. "Come on, Opal," he said. "Sit down. And I will tell you ten things about your mama."

Chapter Four

One," said the preacher. We were sitting on the couch and Winn-Dixie was sitting between us. Winn-Dixie had already decided that he liked the couch a lot. "One," said the preacher again. Winn-Dixie looked at him kind of hard. "Your mama was funny. She could make just about anybody laugh."

"Two," he said. "She had red hair and freckles."

"Just like me," I said.

"Just like you," the preacher nodded.

"Three. She liked to plant things. She had a talent for it. She could stick a tire in the ground and grow a car."

Winn-Dixie started chewing on his paw, and I tapped him on the head to make him stop.

"Four," said the preacher. "She could run fast. If you were racing her, you couldn't ever let her get a head start, because she would beat you for sure."

"I'm that way, too," I said. "Back home, in Watley, I raced Liam Fullerton, and beat him, and he said it wasn't fair, because boys and girls shouldn't race each other to begin with. I told him he was just a sore loser."

The preacher nodded. He was quiet for a minute.

"I'm ready for number five," I told him.

"Five," he said. "She couldn't cook. She burned everything, including water. She had a hard time opening a can of beans. She couldn't make head nor tail of a piece of meat. Six." The preacher rubbed his nose and looked up at the ceiling. Winn-Dixie looked up, too. "Number six is that your mama loved a story. She would sit and listen to stories all day long. She loved to be told a story. She especially liked funny ones, stories that made her laugh." The preacher nodded his head like he was agreeing with himself.

"What's number seven?" I asked.

"Let's see," he said. "She knew all the constellations, every planet in the nighttime sky. Every last one of them. She could name them. And point them out. And she never got tired of looking up at them.

"Number eight," said the preacher, with his eyes closed, "was that she hated being a preacher's wife. She said she just couldn't stand having the ladies at church judge what she was wearing and what she was cooking and how she was singing. She said it made her feel like a bug under a microscope."

Winn-Dixie lay down on the couch. He put his nose in the preacher's lap and his tail in mine.

"Ten," said the preacher.

"Nine," I told him.

"Nine," said the preacher. "She drank. She drank beer. And whiskey. And wine. Sometimes, she couldn't stop drinking. And that made me and your mama fight quite a bit. Number ten," he said with a long sigh, "number ten, is that your mama loved you. She loved you very much."

"But she left me," I told him.

"She left us," said the preacher softly. I could see him pulling his old turtle head back into his stupid turtle shell. "She packed her bags and left us, and she didn't leave one thing behind."

"Okay," I said. I got up off the couch. Winn-Dixie hopped off, too. "Thank you for telling me," I said.

I went right back to my room and wrote down all ten things that the preacher had told me. I wrote them down just the way he said them to me so that I wouldn't forget them, and then I read them out loud to Winn-Dixie until I had them memorized. I wanted to know those ten things inside and out. That way, if my mama ever came back, I could recognize her, and I would be able to grab her and hold on to her tight and not let her get away from me again. ...

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