Literature Guide for Because of Winn-Dixie
About the Author
Kate DiCamillo was born in March of 1964 in the town of Merion Pennsylvania. She did not, however, lead a normal, healthy childhood. According to an interview with Something About the Author, DiCamillo was a sickly child. “My body happily played host to all of the usual childhood maladies (mumps and measles, chickenpox twice, and ear infections), plus a few exotic extras: inexplicable skin diseases, chronic pinkeye, and most dreaded of all pneumonia, recurring every winter for the first five years of my life.” Because she was so unhealthy, her doctor recommended that her family move to a warmer climate. At age five, DiCamillo and her family, her mother a teacher and her father an orthodontist, picked up and moved to a small town in central Florida. She spent most of the rest of her youth in Florida, and eventually earned her bachelor’s degree in English at the University of Florida Gainesville.
Sometime after college, DiCamillo moved to Minneapolis, Minnesota where she got a job at a book warehouse on the children’s floor. Although an avid lover of books since childhood, DiCamillo did not start her career as a writer until about age 30. She started out writing short stories, and it was not until her job on the children’s floor of the warehouse that she began writing children’s books. Now at the age of 40, DiCamillo splits her time between working part time at a used book store and writing another book to add to the list of three children’s books she has already published, two of which are Newbery Award winners.
Looking back, DiCamillo ties her love of reading to a very young age. She describes her reading habits as obsessive and recalls reading anything and everything she could get her hands on. Because of her many illnesses, DiCamillo spent a lot of her youth alone. While most people would look at this kind of childhood as bad luck, DiCamillo has a different opinion. She says, “looking back, I can see all that illness for what it was: a gift that shaped me and made me what I am.” What others might see as a curse, she views as a gift that gave her a voice in which to tell her stories.
It was her sickness and time spent in Florida that inspired her first book Because of Winn-Dixie. The night before she started writing the book, DiCamillo says that Opal’s voice spoke to her. She told DiCamillo that she had a dog named Winn-Dixie. DiCamillo says that she was simply writing Opal’s story. Because of Winn-Dixie turned out better then anyone could have imagined and immediately found its way on to a distinguished list of Newbery Winners and the hearts of many children and adults.
Even after the success of Because of Winn-Dixie, DiCamillo continued to keep her strict schedule of two pages of writing per day, while still working part time in the bookstore. Since her first book, DiCamillo has written two more and is currently working on a collection of short stories for adults and a novel for young adults. Like most writers, DiCamillo struggles to write material that is appealing to her fans. She says that she has realized that she simply needs to write to tell a good story, and not to please everyone.
Within three years of arriving on the literary scene, DiCamillo has accomplished what many writers would be happy achieving in a lifetime. She has an obvious ability to appeal to a large audience, and has found her way to the top of book reviews with all three of her books. Her love for books, animals, and her steadfast talent truly shines in each of her books.
For more information about Kate Dicamillo visit Candlewick Press.
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Page Last Updated March 14, 2005