Because of Winn-Dixie was author Kate DiCamillo's first novel, published in 2000. While it is a work of fiction, a large part of it is based on DiCamillo's own life. In her Scholastic website biography, DiCamillo states that as a child she and her mother moved from Philadelphia to a town in Florida similair to the one in which this novel takes place. Instead of feeling out of place, however, DiCamillo fell "madly in love" with her new home, and uses it as a source of inspiration in her work.
Winn-Dixie, the title character and young Opal's dog, is loosely based on DiCamillo's own childhood dog, a standard poodle named Nanette. However similarities between the two are in their personalities not appearances.
DiCamillo did not start writing until later in her life, at age 29. Many of her stories reflect her experiences but none are as close to autobiographical as Because of Winn-Dixie. The novel was extremely well-recieved, winning a Newberry Honor Distinction in 2001 just a year after it was published. In 2003 it won the Mark Twain award and in 2005 it was adapted into a film by director Wayne Wang.
In her Scholastic biography, DiCamillo says this about her main character: "India Opal Buloni seems so real to me, I don't think I could have made her up. Rather, I feel like I discovered her."
DiCamillo is praised for her ability to create believable characters that readers can relate to and root for. Her stories often focus on individuals with strong moral compasses overcoming difficult situations, emphasizing the power of love and courage.
Because of Winn-Dixie is a novel that has been enjoyed by readers of all ages and incorporated into some English class' standard curriculum.