Grades 3-5: DiCamillo, Kate, Because of Winn-Dixie Candlewick

Grades 6-8: Dowell, Frances O'Roark, Dovey Coe Simon & Schuster

Press Release

EMPORIA, Kansas - A story about a lonely girl who adopts an unusual dog and a story about a 12-year-old girl who has to prove she isn't a murderer have
been selected by Kansas children as the 51st annual William Allen White Children's Book Award winners.

Because of Winn Dixie by Kate DiCamillo is the 2003 White Award winner in the third- to fifth grade category and Dovey Coe by Frances O’Roark Dowell is the winner of the sixth- to eighth grade 2003 White Award according to Joyce N. Davis, Dean of the University Libraries and Archives at Emporia State University and Executive Director of the White Awards Program. The White Awards Program, which is the nation’s first statewide reader’s choice award, is directed by Emporia State and is supported by the Trusler Foundation.

More than 66,000 Kansas boys and girls in the third through eighth grades participated in the voting for this year’s awards. The boys and girls voted for their favorite book from master lists chosen by the White Awards Book Selection Committee, which is made up of representatives of education institutions in Kansas, Kansas educational and professional organizations concerned with children, classroom teachers, and school or public librarians working with children.

DiCamillo’s Because of Winn Dixie, winner of the third through fifth grade award, is the story of ten year old India Opal Buloni who moves to Naomi, Florida with her father. She doesn’t have any idea of what to expect in her new home, but she never expected to adopt Winn-Dixie a dog which she names after the supermarket where they meet. Opal is lonely, but with such an unusually friendly dog at her side, she soon finds herself making more than a few unusual friends. Ultimately, Opal and the preacher realize – with a little help from Winn-Dixie, of course – that while they’ve both tasted a bit of melancholy in their lives, they still have a whole lot to be thankful for.

It’s the pipe dream of many an aspiring author: publish your debut novel. claim a spot on the New York Times bestseller list, and rack up an astonishing array of awards, including a Newbery Honor, the Oscar of children’s books. For DiCamillo, author of the runaway charmer Because of Winn-Dixie, it is a dream come true – and nobody could have been more surprised than she was. She was born in Philadelphia, PA, but moved to Florida when she was five years old. She received her bachelor’s degree from the University of Florida in Gainesville. She currently resides in Minneapolis, Minnesota, and it was homesickness for Florida’s warmth that helped inspire Because of Winn-Dixie, which she describes as “a hymn of praise to dogs, friendship, and the South.” Until recently, DiCamillo faithfully set her alarm clock for 4:00 a.m. to put in some writing time before heading off to work at a store selling used children’s books. While she now is able to devote her time to writing – and so can wake at a more reasonable hour – her regimen remains as disciplined as ever: two pages a day, five days a week.

Dowell’s Dovey Coe, winner of the sixth through eighth grade award, is the story of twelve year old Dovey Coe of Indian Creek, North Carolina. “My name is Dovey Coe, and I reckon it don’t matter if you like me or not. I’m here to lay the record straight, to let you know them folks saying I done a terrible thing are liars. I aim to prove it, too. I hated Parnell Caraway as much as the next person, but I didn’t kill him. Will Dovey Coe be able to prove her innocence? Dowell has created an irresistible heroine the likes of whom have not been seen since the legendary Scout first appeared in Harper Lee’s classic To Kill a Mockingbird.

Dowell is the editor and co-publisher of Dream/Girl, a critically acclaimed arts magazine for girls. She received her M.F.A. in Poetry from the University of Massachusetts, and has published poems in such literary journals as Poetry East, Shenandoah, and the New Delta Review. She has worked as a paralegal, a college English instructor, and an arts administrator. She lives in Carrboro, North Carolina, with her husband and son.

Since 1952, more than 2,788,000 votes have been cast by the children of Kansas to select the annual winners of the White Book Awards. The White Award Program was founded by Ruth Carver Gagliardo, a specialist in children’s literature, to honor the memory of one of the state’s most distinguished citizens by encouraging the boys and girls of Kansas to read and enjoy good books. Gagliardo’s dedicated and inspired leadership guided the White Award Program from 1952 until her death on January 5, 1980.


Because of Winn-Dixie

Because of Winn-Dixie. Kate DiCamillo; Candlewick, 2000
Grade Level: 3rd-5th
ISBN Number & Cost: 0-7636-0776-2; $15.99

Synopsis: A motherless ten-year-old girl moves to Naomi, FL with her preacher father. She adopts a dog that got in trouble at a Winn-Dixie grocery store and names him Winn-Dixie. She confides in her dog about how lonely she is, how she misses her mother, and why her father won’t tell her about her mother. With the help of Winn-Dixie, Opal makes some unusual friends in town and learns about her mother. Opal and the Preacher realize that even though they have had some sad times in their lives they still have a lot to be thankful for.

Themes: Moving, Pets, Florida

Discussion Questions: Standard 3, Benchmark 3

1. Winn-Dixie didn’t like to be left alone; do you think it was right to let him come to church and the library?
2. What kinds of things should the Preacher tell Opal about her mother? What do you think about the list he made?
3. How do you feel when it storms? Do storms bother you?


1. Plan a party-set up a theme, menu, guest list, location-time and place, and design an invitation. Standard 5, Benchmark 3
2. Make a list of 10 things about the main characters in the book so that we will know what they are like. Examples are Opal, the Preacher, and Winn-Dixie. Standard 3, Benchmark 2
3. Winn-Dixie is afraid of thunderstorms. Research the kinds of weather in your area during the summer. Standard 1, Benchmark 5

Dovey Coe

Dovey Coe. Frances O’Roark Dowell; Simon, 2000
Grade Level: 6th-8th
ISBN Number & Cost: 0-689-83174-9; $16.00

Synopsis: When accused of murder in her North Carolina mountain town in 1928, Dovey Coe, a strong-willed twelve-year-old girl, comes to a new understanding of others, including her deaf brother, Amos. Parnell Caraway, an annoying teen with his own car, is set on taking Dovey’s sister Caroline as his wife, attempting to avert her dream of going to college to become a teacher. After his proposal is turned down, Parnell is found dead with Dovey as the only witness to events, and it is up to the judge to decide if the feisty tomboy is innocent or guilty of murder.

General Review: Dovey Coe will find a place in her readers’ hearts as she climbs her mountain, protects her brother, stands up for her family, and shares her story with a glowing warmth and depth. Dowell’s precise writing makes you want to travel back in time to a tiny North Carolina mountain town like Indian Creek and sit on the porch visiting with some nice folk, drinking lemonade.

Themes: Family, North Carolina/ Southern Culture, Disability-Hearing, Gender Stereotypes, Court System, rich vs. poor

Author Information:;

Discussion Questions: Standard 3, Benchmark 3

1. Dovey seems to think her father should have spoken out against Parnell (see pg. 38) and not let things go so far. Why do you think he wants Caroline to make her own decisions about seeing Parnell? Do you think his actions are wise?
2. Dovey states, “The way I seen things, us Coes had everything we needed in this world…To my way of thinking, Parnell was a prime example of riches not necessarily making a man satisfied with his life” (pg. 64-5). Do you think this is true of Parnell? How does being rich or poor affect other characters, such as Paris, Caroline and Amos?
3. Parnell laughs when he tells Caroline, “Were you really serious about being a teacher? I mean, I ain’t ever seen you pick up a book of your own volition. I ain’t even sure you can read.” Why does he say this? How does it make Caroline feel? How does it make you feel?


1. Amos uses signals to talk with Dovey and with his dogs. Make up some symbols as a group to talk to each other without speaking. Have sure sign language books or videos available to students; then compare your symbols with the American Sign Language symbols for these things. Schedule a class visitor who can teach students some sign language; learn how to communicate with deaf people in your community. Standard 3, Benchmark 4
2. Dovey learns about the court system through the process of her trial. Learn the meanings of court terminology (“objection sustained,” etc.), what judges and juries do, and other aspects of the American court system. Visit a local courtroom for a tour or listen in on a hearing. Watch “To Kill a Mockingbird” for another look at a courtroom experience. Standard 7, Benchmark 1
3. Make a map of North Carolina with the cities mentioned in Dovey Coe, other important cities, mountain ranges, forests, lakes, etc. Write to the Governor of NC for information about the state. Find information about the wildlife Amos and Dovey might have encountered on Katie’s Knob. Standard 1, Benchmark 5