If I was told I could only read and re-read five books for the rest of my life, I'd have a hard time filling four of the slots. But there is one book I'd put on the list without question: Because of Winn Dixie by Kate DiCamillo.

Opal is at the grocery store one day when she happens to meet an amazing dog. He's running loose in the produce department and needs someone to claim him. Opal doesn't think twice about it, saving the dog from an irate store manager and life as a stray. He's skinny and his fur is matted. He has some bald spots and he stinks, but Opal knows deep down he's the greatest dog ever.

Opal's life is forever changed by Winn Dixie. He is the reason she gets a job at the pet shop and befriends the quiet but odd Otis, who works there. She realizes he is a talented musician who can charm animals with his voice.

Winn Dixie also brings Gloria Dump into Opal's life. Gloria is a fabulous old lady who loves peanut butter sandwiches and gives sage advice when Opal needs it most.

Winn Dixie is the prompt the shy town librarian needs to tell one of the funniest stories about a library that I've ever heard. Because of Winn Dixie, Opal makes friends her own age too. The kids aren't as easy to make friends with but Winn Dixie eases things along.

One of the biggest changes that Winn Dixie helps usher in is Opal's relationship with her father. She refers to him as "the preacher" for most of the book. Her mother abandoned them when she was quite young and Opal feels that caused her father to pull inside a protective shell, almost like a turtle. The climax of the book comes as Opal and her father are frantically searching for Winn Dixie in a storm. She screams at him for giving up on trying to find Winn Dixie, just as he did her mother. Opal finally realizes that her father never gave up hope but understands that he can't change what happened. After that, Opal calls him her father.

Winn Dixie is one of my all-time favorite books and I'm sure you can see why. If you haven't read it yet, go get a copy now. This book is a Newberry Award book and it's amazing!

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