A FEW OTHER EVENTS FOR
- Happy birthday Dora Jessie Saint, pen name Miss Read (News From Thrush Green), Roy A. Gallant (The Ever-Changing Atom), and Jane Kurtz (River Friendly, River Wild).
- Itâ€™s the birth date of Dayal Kaur Khalsa (1943-1989), I Want a Dog, and Martyn Godfrey (1947-2000), Baseball Crazy.
- In 1397 Chaucer tells the Canterbury Tales for the first time at court of Richard II. Read Canterbury Tales adapted by Barbara Cohen, illustrated by Trina Schart Hyman, Chaucerâ€™s Canterbury Tales by Marcia Williams, and Sir Gawain and the Loathly Lady by Selina Hastings.
- Itâ€™s Bat Appreciation Day. Read Bats at the Ballgame by Brian Lies.
April has been set aside as â€śDog Appreciation Month.â€ť My own dogs serve as my writing muse. Just nowÂ Lancelot, eating with relish, makes small pig noises. He encourages me to write with gusto. The bond between child and dog remains one of the universal experiences of childhood, as does the longing for a dog if the child has been denied one by a parent.
That longing has been beautifully described in our book of the day, Because of Winn-Dixie by Kate DiCamillo. Ten-year-old India Opal Buloni lives with her preacher father; they are newcomers in a Florida town. Opalâ€™s mother left years ago, and her father has come to take up his calling in the Open Arms Baptist Church. One day, while shopping in the Winn-Dixie store, Opal sees a stray dog with a charismatic smile who has knocked down groceries into the aisles. Because she longs for a companion in this new town, she claims him as her own and calls him the first thing that comes to her mind, Winn-Dixie. Opal finds that he follows obediently and fits in perfectlyâ€”after a bath and some food.
Then, because of Winn-Dixie, she begins to make friendsâ€”the local librarian, an old lady some call a witch, the owner of a pet store, and even some of the boys and girls of the town. At the end of the book, they all have a wonderful celebratory partyâ€”only to have the catalyst of the event, Winn-Dixie, vanish suddenly in a thunderstorm. But all ends well, as readers watch Opal move from a misfit to a member of a community, helping others heal from their own loneliness and heartache.
Ideal for eight- to twelve-year-old readers, Because of Winn-Dixie, DiCamilloâ€™s first childrenâ€™s book, had little success when sent to publishers. In fact, DiCamillo is probably the most rejected of our contemporary writers, with 440 rejections, from the time she first started sending work out until the day Winn-Dixie was accepted. This manuscript sat in the Candlewick offices for several months until a young editorial assistant, Kara LaReau, found it, liked it, and passed it on to Liz Bicknell. Bicknell laughed at the first chapter and then cried. After finishing it, she thought it the best middle grade novel she had ever read. When the call came from Bicknell to ask if the book might still be available, DiCamillo was faced with something new to herâ€”acceptance. Quickly selling a half million copies and winning a Newbery Honor, the book won over critics and children in equal measure. As one child has said of the story: â€śIf Winn-Dixie werenâ€™t a book, Iâ€™d marry it.â€ť
In the twenty-first century Kate DiCamillo has written one fabulous book after another, many headed for classic statusâ€”The Tale of Despereaux, winner of the Newbery, The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane, and recently Bink and Gollie with Alison McGhee, winner of the Geisel Award. Starting as one of the most rejected writers, Kate DiCamillo has become one of this centuryâ€™s most acclaimed authors. For those who like to use manuscript drafts with young readers, several versions of Because of Winn-Dixie can be found online here.
If by any chance you have missed her, you can begin with no better book than Because of Winn-Dixie. Telling aÂ beautiful story, with great characters, in simple language, Kate reminds all her readers just how satisfying a girl and her dog story can beâ€”when told from the heart.
Hereâ€™s a passage from Because of Winn-Dixie:
â€śYou asked for a whole library?â€ť
“A small one,â€ť Miss Franny nodded.
Originally posted April 17, 2011. Updated for .