Miss Franny Block begins her story by telling Opal that back when she was a child, Florida was a wild place full of wild men, women, and animals. Franny’s father, Mr. Herman W. Block, asked his daughter what she would like to have for her birthday. Franny’s father was a rich man and promised to get her anything she wanted. So Franny told her father that she wanted her own small library. Franny loved books and loved to read, and she wanted to share her books with other people. So her father built a small house and filled it with books, and Franny became a young librarian.
Miss Block tells Opal that when she was a little girl, she thought she knew the answers to everything. She would sit at her desk in the library with her face buried in a book. And it just so happened that on a hot Thursday afternoon, Franny was at her desk reading when a dark shadow moved past her. Thinking it was just someone looking for a book, Franny asked if she could help, but no one answered. Franny looked up from her book—right into the face of a big bear. Of course Franny was afraid, and the bear sniffed the air like it was thinking about eating her. But Franny was not going to give up without a fight, so she threw her book at the bear. Opal interrupts Miss Block’s story to ask about the title of the book, and Miss Block tells her that she had been reading Tolstoy’s War and Peace. Then Miss Block tells Opal the best part of the story—the part she will never forget. The bear snatched up that copy of War and Peace and ran out of the library with the book in its mouth. Miss Block says that the men in town used to tease her mercilessly about the incident. They would tell her they saw the bear in the woods from time to time slumped against a tree, reading War and Peace. They would tell her the bear thought it was a really good book and that he would need to keep it for another week.
Miss Block says that now she is the only one left from the old days; everyone with whom she grew up is now dead and gone. She sighs, and Opal can feel her loneliness, the same loneliness Opal feels being friendless and motherless in a new town. At this point, Winn-Dixie looks back and forth between Opal and Miss Block and smiles. Opal tells Miss Block that smiling is Winn-Dixie’s talent, and Miss Block thinks that is a fine talent. Opal proposes that the three of them be friends, and Miss Block thinks this is a grand idea.
A neighborhood girl, Amanda Wilkinson, comes into the library and tells Miss Block that she has finished reading Johnny Tremain and now needs a more difficult book because she is an advanced reader. Amanda sees Winn-Dixie and asks whether dogs are allowed inside the library. Miss Block tells her that only “a select few” are allowed inside, and she winks at Opal. Opal is happy that even “old pinch-faced” Amanda cannot ruin her new friendship.