2006 Nēnē Award Essay Contest Winners

Because of Winn-Dixie by Kate DiCamillo

4th Grade Winner
5th Grade Winner
6th Grade Winner
Erin Voss
Moanalua Elementary
Jake Belding
Maryknoll Grade School
Kylie Ojiri
Maryknoll Grade School


4th Grade Honorable Mention
5th Grade Honorable Mention
6th Grade Honorable Mention
Xavier Imperial
Maryknoll Grade School
Christianne Michel
Maryknoll Grade School
Sasha Hall
St. John Vianney Parish School

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Erin Voss, 1st pl ace
grade 4  Moanalua Elementary
What Makes Because of Winn-Dixie Best in Show

The one word that would best describes Kate DiCamillo's Because of Winn-Dixie is compassion.  Each character is lonely and sad in the story, but compassion helps them become friends.
For example, when Opal does not want the stray dog to go to the pound, she tells the store manager, "That's my dog."  Her father taught her to take care of others, and she listened to him. She felt the dog needed her. Winn-Dixie and Opal were like orphans and became friends.

The dog would run off in different directions, and that's how Opal was able to make new friends. Because of this dog, Opal was able to meet people who had different gifts that no one else admired. For example, Otis's music could hypnotize animals and Miss Fanny had many stories to tell. Opal's best friend was Gloria Dump.  She listened to Opal's stories and would respond with helpful hints. The first lesson was after Opal called the Dewberry boys "bald-headed babies."  Gloria told her to stop teasing them and not to judge them by how they look.  Opal did this when she took Winn-Dixie in.  He looked like a "big piece of old brown carpet that had been left out in the rain."  The second lesson was when Gloria said, "There ain't no way you can hold on to something that wants to go. You can only love what you got while you got it." Opal realized this when she forgot about Winn-Dixie during the thunderstorm.

The story has a happy ending when she found that Winn-Dixie was at Gloria's house the whole time.  The party also helped everyone become friends because they showed each other compassion. Because of Winn-Dixie was funny yet sad, and it reminds us to show others that we care about them. 

(word count 298  -  judges note: “Winn-Dixie” was counted as one word)

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Xavier Imperial,  Honorable Mention
Grade 4  Maryknoll Grade School

Nene Award Essay Contest

I believe Because of Winn-Dixie won the 2005 Nēnē Award because it could be enjoyed by readers of all ages.  Once I started reading, I quickly became involved in the story and felt as if I was in Naomi, Florida.

The characters in the story were easy to relate to since they could have been like people and animals in my neighborhood.  I imagine Winn-Dixie to be a big, shaggy dog.  The people India Opal meets are all very different.  At first they appear to be unfriendly but India Opal became friends with them because of Winn-Dixie.

I understand how India Opal felt since sometimes I feel lonely, especially when I am in a place where I don’t know anyone.  Like India Opal, I am not the type of person who can just go up to someone and become friends.  If I have a friend with me, I let him do the talking.  Then, when I am comfortable I will join in the conversation.  Winn-Dixie acted like a friend for India Opal and helped her make friends just like my friends do to me.

For example, Winn-Dixie looked in the window of the library and appeared to be a bear, scaring Miss Fanny Block half to death.  When India Opal said it was her dog, Miss Fanny decided to tell them why she thought he was a bear.

Then Winn-Dixie made India Opal go to the pet shop to buy a collar and leash.  That’s where she met Otis. Also, Winn-Dixie ran into a yard  which forced India Opal to follow since she didn’t want to lose him.  There she met Gloria Dump.

I believe the book was titled Because of Winn-Dixie since all of the things that happen in the story were started because of what Winn-Dixie did.

(word count 300  -  judges note: “Winn-Dixie” was counted as one word)

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Jake Belding,  1st place
Grade 5  Maryknoll Grade School

It's no surprise Hawaii's children love Because of Winn-Dixie. This is a story about someone that kids everywhere can relate to in some way.

Life isn't always easy for 10-year old India Opal Buloni. Sometimes it can be pretty hard. She's been through some tough times: her mother left her when she was little; her father is too busy with work and doesn't pay enough attention to her; and she just moved to a new town and is having trouble making friends.

But thanks to the unconditional love and unmatched curiosity of a stray dog that she befriends and takes in, Opal discovers new opportunities and finds new meaning in her life. She finds an unusual batch of friends in unexpected places. There's Gloria Dump, an old woman and former alcoholic who lives alone and collects an array of empty bottles that she hangs in a tree; two bald-headed brothers who used to pick on her; and Otis, a misunderstood ex-convict and pet shop worker with a love for music and a heart of gold. Opal learns that if you look beyond the outside, you might find some good in people. That's a valuable lesson for kids to learn.

Most of us have felt lonely or sad at one time or another, just like Opal. Some kids come from single-parent families; our parents are busy, too; and we all want to fit in. This story shows that with a little love and a lot of hope, things can turn around for people even in the worst situations. It gives us an uplifting feeling and proves that good things do happen to good people. That's a wonderful message.

(word count 279  -  judges note: “Winn-Dixie” was counted as one word)

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Christianne Michel, Honorable Mention
Grade 5  Maryknoll Grade School

Because of Winn-Dixie by Kate DiCamillo

India Opal Buloni is a ten-year-old girl who lives in Naomi, Florida. She has no friends and no mother. Opal is miserable because her father spends more time with other people than with her. Yet the children of Hawaii voted her story the winner of the 2005 Nēnē Award. Hmmm. What's wrong with this picture?

Perhaps some people think sadness in a story makes it dreary and gray. Kate DiCamillo proved them wrong by writing a story that is sad, sunny and touching at the same time. When Ms. Franny, the librarian, gives a Litmus Lozenge to Opal, saying that it tastes like sadness, Opal thinks about how her mother left and how her father's preaching takes him away from her. Even though this causes her heartache, Opal reaches out to others in her town and forms long-lasting friendships. The strongest friendship is with Winn- Dixie, the scruffy dog she finds in a grocery store.

These friendships give Opal strength and a more positive outlook on the world...and a shining smile on her face. This story is splashed with sadness, but you can see the beauty of the book through the sorrow. Because of Winn-Dixie appeals to people through emotions and incidents they can understand and connect to. That is why I think it won the 2005 Nēnē Award.

(word count 219 -  judges note: “Winn-Dixie” was counted as one word)

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Kylie Ojiri,  1st Place
Grade 6,  Maryknoll Grade School

Because of Winn-Dixie By Kate DiCamillo

I think the children of the state of Hawai'i chose Because of Winn-Dixie for the Nēnē award because of a theme that relates to this story:  sorrow. It is the feeling of sorrow that Opal felt when she was deserted by her mother and the sorrow that touched Amanda when she lost her little brother. I was touched emotionally by the words used by Ms. DiCamillo in the book. I felt their loneliness and their hurt.

When Opal wanted her father to tell her ten things about her mother, it was because she didn't know anything about her. When the Preacher was telling Opal about her mother, I could tell that she was melancholy. She was happy to know ten things about her mother but also sad because she wouldn’t meet her mother. She knew she would never experience her mother’s laugh, her smile, and everything that the preacher liked about her mother. Opal was a great daughter to the preacher. The preacher felt sorrow too, but was happy and thankful that his wife had left one thing behind -and that one thing was Opal.

Amanda loved her brother so much that she changed her whole image because she missed him. The feeling of sorrow felt by Amanda brings back memories of my grandfather who passed away five years ago. I miss him as much as Amanda missed her little brother. She loved him intensely and that's how I feel about my grandpa.

After reading this book, I have learned the true meaning of sorrow. Gloria Dump inspired me by saying, "I believe that sometimes the world has an aching heart." Now I see myself and other people with the same concepts of sorrow -and "it's all Because of Winn-Dixie."

(word count 290 -  judges note: “Winn-Dixie” was counted as one word)

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Sasha Hall, Honorable Mention
Grade 6, St. John Vianney

Why I Think Because of Winn-Dixie Won the 2005 Nēnē Award

When I read Because of Winn-Dixie I felt that the very talented author Kate DiCamillo expressed many emotions in the small lonely life of India Opal Buloni. Her heart was simply empty because of the loss of her mother. Since Opal's mother left her when she was very young, she had only a faint memory of her. Everything changes for Opal when a big, shaggy, brown, ugly dog, Winn-Dixie, jumps into her heart and fills it with love and adventure.

Since Opal had no friends, she met a lovely librarian named Ms. Franny Block. Every time Opal visited Ms. Franny she would always learn something new and interesting about her. What always fascinated Opal were Ms. Franny Block's stories and how the Littmus Lozenge made her grandfather famous. Once Opal tasted it she knew exactly how to describe it, sweet at one moment, melancholy the other. I don't know about you, but I have never tasted a candy like that.

Because of Winn-Dixie made such a difference in my life because I learned so many life lessons. The best lesson is don't judge people by their looks but rather by what is inside that person.

(word count 195 -  judges note: “Winn-Dixie” was counted as one word)



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