What if everyone in the state decided to read the same book?
Folks at the Friends of the St. Paul Public Library were brainstorming in March, trying to come up with a way that libraries could bring people together during this time of isolation, when the idea for a statewide read came up.
The book they chose was “Because of Winn-Dixie,” the Newbery Honor Award-winning first novel by Minneapolis writer Kate DiCamillo.
In what might have been record time — just a couple of weeks — the statewide reading plan came together, a remarkable collaboration between a whole host of libraries and state agencies as well as DiCamillo and her publisher, Candlewick Press.
The result is One Book / One Minnesota, a virtual book club where everyone in the state is invited to read “Winn-Dixie.”
The book will be available in a variety of ways — for purchase through independent bookstores, or for borrowing through libraries. It will also be available to be read online for free at the Ebooks Minnesota website for the next eight weeks.
“If this works and goes well, maybe this will be the start of an ongoing program,” said Kim Horton, senior director of communications for the Friends of the St. Paul Library.
Written at the fourth-grade level, the book — which celebrates its 20th anniversary this year — is appropriate for readers of all ages.
The story of a young girl who rescues a stray dog that changes her life, the book won the Josette Frank Award, the Mark Twain Award, and was made into a 2005 movie starring Jeff Daniels.
It begins like this: “My name is India Opal Buloni, and last summer my daddy, the preacher, sent me to the store for a box of macaroni-and-cheese, some white rice, and two tomatoes, and I came back with a dog.”
Minnesotans are invited to read the book this month and next. Through their local library websites, they will have access to reading guides, virtual book club discussions and videos of DiCamillo.
In May, there will be a statewide virtual discussion of the book with DiCamillo and others.
“I’m so happy we can all gather around stories,” DiCamillo said in a video promoting One Book. “Let’s read together. Reading a book together kind of changes everyone involved. It’s a way for everybody to connect.”