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Where the Watermelons Grow

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Twelve-year-old Della Kelly has lived her whole life in Maryville, North Carolina. She knows how to pick the softest butter beans and sweetest watermelons on her daddy’s farm. She knows ways to keep her spitfire baby sister out of trouble (most of the time). She knows everyone in Maryville, from her best friend Arden to kind newcomer Miss Lorena to the mysterious Bee Lady. Twelve-year-old Della Kelly has lived her whole life in Maryville, North Carolina. She knows how to pick the softest butter beans and sweetest watermelons on her daddy’s farm. She knows ways to keep her spitfire baby sister out of trouble (most of the time). She knows everyone in Maryville, from her best friend Arden to kind newcomer Miss Lorena to the mysterious Bee Lady. And Della knows what to do when the sickness that landed her mama in the hospital four years ago spirals out of control again, and Mama starts hearing people who aren’t there, scrubbing the kitchen floor until her hands are raw, and waking up at night to cut the black seeds from all the watermelons in the house. With Daddy struggling to save the farm from a record-breaking drought, Della decides it’s up to her to heal Mama for good. And she knows just how she’ll do it: with a jar of the Bee Lady’s magic honey, which has mended the wounds and woes of Maryville for generations. She doesn’t want to hear the Bee Lady’s truth: that the solution might have less to do with fixing Mama’s brain than with healing Della’s own heart. But as the sweltering summer stretches on, Della must learn—with the help of her family and friends, plus a fingerful of watermelon honey—that love means accepting her mama just as she is.


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Twelve-year-old Della Kelly has lived her whole life in Maryville, North Carolina. She knows how to pick the softest butter beans and sweetest watermelons on her daddy’s farm. She knows ways to keep her spitfire baby sister out of trouble (most of the time). She knows everyone in Maryville, from her best friend Arden to kind newcomer Miss Lorena to the mysterious Bee Lady. Twelve-year-old Della Kelly has lived her whole life in Maryville, North Carolina. She knows how to pick the softest butter beans and sweetest watermelons on her daddy’s farm. She knows ways to keep her spitfire baby sister out of trouble (most of the time). She knows everyone in Maryville, from her best friend Arden to kind newcomer Miss Lorena to the mysterious Bee Lady. And Della knows what to do when the sickness that landed her mama in the hospital four years ago spirals out of control again, and Mama starts hearing people who aren’t there, scrubbing the kitchen floor until her hands are raw, and waking up at night to cut the black seeds from all the watermelons in the house. With Daddy struggling to save the farm from a record-breaking drought, Della decides it’s up to her to heal Mama for good. And she knows just how she’ll do it: with a jar of the Bee Lady’s magic honey, which has mended the wounds and woes of Maryville for generations. She doesn’t want to hear the Bee Lady’s truth: that the solution might have less to do with fixing Mama’s brain than with healing Della’s own heart. But as the sweltering summer stretches on, Della must learn—with the help of her family and friends, plus a fingerful of watermelon honey—that love means accepting her mama just as she is.

30 review for Where the Watermelons Grow

  1. 4 out of 5

    Amanda Rawson Hill

    I had the pleasure of reading this book before it got a book deal. It is gorgeous. The words will floor you. They are lyrical and beautiful and packed full of emotion. The feelings are raw and real. An important book. Loved it.

  2. 5 out of 5

    K.A.

    Oh my goodness. When I moved away from the Carolina's, what I missed the most was the soft and gentle way of that part of the world. The talk and demeanor of the people, the heat and big old sun that sinks deep into everything and fills you up inside. And this book? That voice? It's all right here. From the beautiful prose, the little sister (a spitfire like ALL OF MINE, but I digress), the family struggling with mental illness (which we do), the friendship between Della and her best friend, the Oh my goodness. When I moved away from the Carolina's, what I missed the most was the soft and gentle way of that part of the world. The talk and demeanor of the people, the heat and big old sun that sinks deep into everything and fills you up inside. And this book? That voice? It's all right here. From the beautiful prose, the little sister (a spitfire like ALL OF MINE, but I digress), the family struggling with mental illness (which we do), the friendship between Della and her best friend, the Bee Lady's honey, and every character in this small southern town, this story will touch your heart. I am sorry it's winter in Maine and I'm not in the Carolina's in summer, eating watermelon with Della, and telling her everything's going to be okay. I highly recommend this book to anyone with a different sort of family, like I've always had, those who feel a bit lost and want to be found, or just those who want to dip their feet into the beautiful south. WHERE THE WATERMELONS GROW felt like coming home.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Leigh Mar

    I'm lucky enough to have read this one already and I can't say enough great things about this story. I read it in one sitting, because I couldn't put it down. It delivered on all the beautiful feels and Della's story stays with you long after you set the book down. It's a perfect bittersweet balance of optimism and acceptance. Add it to your TBR and start your countdowns now, you'll need this one on your shelf when it comes out!

  4. 4 out of 5

    Megan C.

    What an amazing middle grade read! Told in a strong southern voice, this story follows 12-year-old Della through the most difficult summer of her life. Her mother is battling paranoid schizophrenia, her family farm is in trouble, and she's left to hold the family together. I thought this book did a wonderful job of humanizing mental illness for the MG reading set. The author does not shy away from the emotional intensity of dealing with the disease, but she does manage to handle it with such gra What an amazing middle grade read! Told in a strong southern voice, this story follows 12-year-old Della through the most difficult summer of her life. Her mother is battling paranoid schizophrenia, her family farm is in trouble, and she's left to hold the family together. I thought this book did a wonderful job of humanizing mental illness for the MG reading set. The author does not shy away from the emotional intensity of dealing with the disease, but she does manage to handle it with such grace that I don't think it would overwhelm a younger reader. This book was hard, but also incredibly hopeful, and I've already told my eleven year old it's going on his reading list! "There is nothing you did that caused your mama's problems, and nothing that you could have done to change it, you hear me? A thing like schizophrenia is bigger than you, bigger than me, bigger than your mama and daddy. It's a sickness, just as real as anything like cancer, and it needs a doctor's help just as much."

  5. 4 out of 5

    Cindy

    I'm so excited to share this little piece of my heart with all of you!

  6. 5 out of 5

    Laurie

    Interest Level: 5-8; Reading Level: 7.0 Have you ever felt like you have the weight of the world on your shoulders? You have a problem that needs to be fixed and you are the only one who can fix it? This is what Della Kelly is struggling with. Her mom has a disease called schizophrenia. This is a disease that makes her hear other voices in her head and she becomes extremely obsessive about things such as cleaning and the safety of her children. This disease was triggered when Della was born so sh Interest Level: 5-8; Reading Level: 7.0 Have you ever felt like you have the weight of the world on your shoulders? You have a problem that needs to be fixed and you are the only one who can fix it? This is what Della Kelly is struggling with. Her mom has a disease called schizophrenia. This is a disease that makes her hear other voices in her head and she becomes extremely obsessive about things such as cleaning and the safety of her children. This disease was triggered when Della was born so she feels responsible for her mom's sickness. When her mom's sickness starts up again and is spiraling downward, Della feels like she has to fix her. Everything she tries seems to fail and Della is at her wits end. Della's family lives in a small town in North Carolina where everyone knows everyone. Della and her dad are trying to keep this new bout of sickness just to themselves, but as things get worse they realize they need help. All this time that Della is trying to help her mom, she doesn't realize that she needs fixing also. Read this amazing book of love, sacrifice, and family to find out if Bella can help to fix her mom and her family or if things will spiral out of control. This was a very hard book to read. Since I have never had to deal with a family member with any type of mental sickness, I could not put myself in Della's shoes. This was an incredible book to to read, however, because there are so many children out there who do have to deal with these problems everyday. Many children are ashamed and don't want others to know what is happening in their lives. We as teachers have these students in our classrooms and this book teaches us how to have sympathy for these children. If you are a child dealing with a mental illness in your family, this is a must read. If you are an adult that works with children, this is a must read. Don't miss this one!! Follow me: Blog - Blazer Tales - https://blazertales.weebly.com/ Facebook - Laurie’s Library Place - https://www.facebook.com/LauriesLibra... Instagram - laurieslibrary - https://www.instagram.com/laurieslibr... Twitter - @laurieevans27 Goodreads - Laurie Purser - https://www.goodreads.com/user/show/1... Pinterest - https://www.pinterest.com/auburngirl2...

  7. 5 out of 5

    Emily

    This was a very difficult book for me to read because I have a mother who suffers from mental illness. So of course I personalized everything. All the memories that I had carefully buried and had tried to move past resurfaced and it felt like I was reading with a brick in my stomach. That said, I am happy this book was written and Cindy did a beautiful job capturing what it feels like to live with someone who is suffering from mental illness. I think mental health needs to be talked about and no This was a very difficult book for me to read because I have a mother who suffers from mental illness. So of course I personalized everything. All the memories that I had carefully buried and had tried to move past resurfaced and it felt like I was reading with a brick in my stomach. That said, I am happy this book was written and Cindy did a beautiful job capturing what it feels like to live with someone who is suffering from mental illness. I think mental health needs to be talked about and not hidden. Growing up we were told not to tell anyone what went on in our house because it was "confidential" so there wasn't anyone I could really turn to. I had many of the same feelings Della had in this book. As I read Where the Watermelons Grow I wished for a cure that I knew Della would not find. I still wish for a cure. It felt like the conversation Della had in the car with Miss Lorena was written just for me. She was talking to a fictional 12 year old girl, but I needed to hear it and be reminded again too. I wish I had this book 20 years ago.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Laura Gardner

    I can count on one hand the number of books in our library that deal with parents who are battling mental illness and yet I know this is a problem that our students face. I am thrilled to be able to put this book on my shelves for the upcoming school year. WHERE THE WATERMELONS GROW is a book I won't forget anytime soon and I know it will stay with other readers, as well. Someone out there is going to complain that this book is too heavy and depressing for children. It is heavy. Having access to I can count on one hand the number of books in our library that deal with parents who are battling mental illness and yet I know this is a problem that our students face. I am thrilled to be able to put this book on my shelves for the upcoming school year. WHERE THE WATERMELONS GROW is a book I won't forget anytime soon and I know it will stay with other readers, as well. Someone out there is going to complain that this book is too heavy and depressing for children. It is heavy. Having access to books about tough topics is important. Some of our students are dealing with tough situations like this one and they deserve to see their life reflected in books, too. I will defend books like this one ALL. DAY. LONG. And yes, it belongs in elementary school libraries, too. I think the sweet spot for this book is likely grades 3 - 6 (Della is entering 7th grade), but I know certain 7th and 8th graders who will love it, too.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Amelinda Bérubé

    Gulped this down in one sitting on an ugly cold January night - just like Della says of watermelon, it's got the very taste of the stickiest days of July. Full of gorgeous, languid prose I could read all day!

  10. 5 out of 5

    Tracy

    Thanks to the publisher for the free review copy. All opinions are my own. I noticed this morning that WHERE THE WATERMELONS GROW is rated #1 in children’s farm life books on Amazon. That description is extremely limiting, but this book is about as southern as southern gets. It reminds me in many ways of THE SECRET LIFE OF BEES by Sue Monk Kidd. You can almost hear the characters’ slow drawl and feel the hot, sticky air. Della is indeed a 12-year-old country girl, spending her summer selling her Thanks to the publisher for the free review copy. All opinions are my own. I noticed this morning that WHERE THE WATERMELONS GROW is rated #1 in children’s farm life books on Amazon. That description is extremely limiting, but this book is about as southern as southern gets. It reminds me in many ways of THE SECRET LIFE OF BEES by Sue Monk Kidd. You can almost hear the characters’ slow drawl and feel the hot, sticky air. Della is indeed a 12-year-old country girl, spending her summer selling her family’s crops at their roadside farm stand. A summer drought threatens her family’s crops, and Della has never seen her father so stressed. That is, until her mother stops taking the medication that has helped to control her schizophrenia for several years—ever since the “bad time.” Della feels responsible for her mother’s illness, in part because it first blossomed after her own birth. In addition, her mother’s worries often express as fears that something will happen to her daughters. “And once you have a child, it’s like a part of your heart is out there walking around in the world…” As her mother’s health spirals out of control, Della does everything in her preteen power to help. When all efforts fail, Della must rely on friends, family, and ultimately, the power within her to live with her struggles. That’s important—Della can’t solve her mother’s problems, she can only live alongside her and support her as she deals with them. Della also realizes that her mother’s illness in no way affects her ability to love her children. “No sickness in the world could make my mama’s love for us less real.” Della often expresses the fear that her mother is “crazy.” The characters surrounding her respond consistently and forcefully that calling her crazy is neither kind, fair, nor true. Her mother is sick, not crazy. It’s important for young readers to hear this message—that mental illness is just like any other illness. Although I don’t have real-world experience with schizophrenia, this book read to me as a fair and genuine representation of the illness and its impact on families. Perhaps just as importantly its about family love and how family often blurs with community when we need it most. I highly recommend WHERE THE WATERMELONS GROW for middle grade and adult readers! I think it has wide appeal, deals with difficult issues in a fresh way, and is chock full of southern charm.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Kelly Hager

    My heart absolutely broke for Della while I was reading this. Because her mom was diagnosed with schizophrenia shortly after Della was born, she's blamed herself for the illness. And because her dad has a strict policy of "family problems are not to be discussed with outsiders," no one ever said "Oh, honey, no, it's not your fault." I also take issue with the synopsis. It's more that Della learned to let go of (a) her feelings of guilt and (b) her idea that she's the only one who can help fix her My heart absolutely broke for Della while I was reading this. Because her mom was diagnosed with schizophrenia shortly after Della was born, she's blamed herself for the illness. And because her dad has a strict policy of "family problems are not to be discussed with outsiders," no one ever said "Oh, honey, no, it's not your fault." I also take issue with the synopsis. It's more that Della learned to let go of (a) her feelings of guilt and (b) her idea that she's the only one who can help fix her mama. The synopsis makes it sound like she's embarrassed and feels like her mom could be better if she'd only try harder. Della is really wise for someone who's only 12. A large chunk of that is because she's had to do a lot around the house and she does the lion's share of raising her little sister. But she's also still 12 and because her mom was diagnosed after she was born, she interprets it as happening BECAUSE she was born, which means that it was her fault. Even so, she does her part (and then some) and isn't ever all that resentful about it. This is such a fantastic story and will absolutely break your heart (and also really make you crave watermelon). Recommended.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Soleil

    So many emotions. This book was one that I wasn’t sure how I’d feel about, but in the end i loved it. The MC is just a 12 (almost 13) year old girl who wants to help her mama. I related so much with many of Della’s emotions and feelings, remembering many things where i felt the same at that age. I tearwd so many times, and would’ve probably cried if there weren’t people nearby. It is bittersweet in its realism, showing that life has its ups and downs, and we have to work our way and sometimes do So many emotions. This book was one that I wasn’t sure how I’d feel about, but in the end i loved it. The MC is just a 12 (almost 13) year old girl who wants to help her mama. I related so much with many of Della’s emotions and feelings, remembering many things where i felt the same at that age. I tearwd so many times, and would’ve probably cried if there weren’t people nearby. It is bittersweet in its realism, showing that life has its ups and downs, and we have to work our way and sometimes do things differently.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Melissa Sarno

    This book will break your heart a little and piece it back together, as the best books do. The writing is lush, the setting vivid, and Della's voice shines, shines, shines. I loved it.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Cindy

    Once I was lucky enough to get an ARC I decided that Where the Watermelons Grow would be my first read for 2018. What a lovely book--filled with real emotion and love, beautiful descriptions, down home dialogue, and (the part that sticks out the most for me) UNRELENTING heat. It reminded me of hot humid summer days, and by the end of the book I, too, was desperate for a good summer rainstorm. I was left with tears in my eyes and a reminder in my heart that we all have difficult situations in our Once I was lucky enough to get an ARC I decided that Where the Watermelons Grow would be my first read for 2018. What a lovely book--filled with real emotion and love, beautiful descriptions, down home dialogue, and (the part that sticks out the most for me) UNRELENTING heat. It reminded me of hot humid summer days, and by the end of the book I, too, was desperate for a good summer rainstorm. I was left with tears in my eyes and a reminder in my heart that we all have difficult situations in our lives, but thankfully we are also surrounded by people to help us.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Jen Petro-Roy

    What a lush, gorgeously written book. Della has such a distinctive voice, and the atmosphere and place in this book is like another character.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Adrienne Young

    I just had a feeling that I was going to love this and I was right. The writing is stellar, the story is moving, and the author doesn't shy away from the hard things. All of that coupled with the southern summer setting and I was just really in love with this book! I highly recommend. Definitely pre-order worthy.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Zannachan

    Where the Watermelons Grow is Baldwin's debut novel, and it is a beautiful, sweet story about a girl who's mother is suffering from Schizophrenia. With hints of magic realism, the story is a sweet and is as much about family, friendship, and community as it is about mental illness. Baldwin's has an incredible skill with language and characters and I am already looking forward to her next book. I highly recommend this book to others.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Stacey Bene

    I loved this book! As an oncology social worker, I could see this book being helpful for pre-teens and teens with a patent with any type of illness. It addressed the themes of self-blame, uncertainty and powerlessness that many children of ill parents experience. I think this is a must for middle school libraries!

  19. 4 out of 5

    Cassie Thomas

    Della’s family is far from “normal” but what family isn’t? Della’s mother struggles with a mental illness and Della can’t help but carry guilt for thinking her illness is her fault. This is an amazing story of community, love, family, friendship, and understanding. Della is empowering as a young girl. I can’t wait to share with students next year.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Melanie Sumrow

    The prose is lush and languid, easing the reader into the very serious topic of mental illness. Like so many kids, Della wants to “fix” her mom, but the author does a fantastic job of revealing the realities of mental illness with a gentle touch. This is a fantastic book for building empathy and understanding in MG readers.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Nan

    Cindy Baldwin’s debut novel book touched me very deeply. My mom had bipolar disorder, not schizophrenia. But Della, the main character in Where the Watermelons Grow reminds me so much of myself. She reminds me of the struggle to maintain normality, the anger and hostility. The desperate desire to have someone step in and the fear that they would. I can’t separate myself from my history to review this book. It’s too close. But I can tell you that it’s a great book. It’s a great book because Della Cindy Baldwin’s debut novel book touched me very deeply. My mom had bipolar disorder, not schizophrenia. But Della, the main character in Where the Watermelons Grow reminds me so much of myself. She reminds me of the struggle to maintain normality, the anger and hostility. The desperate desire to have someone step in and the fear that they would. I can’t separate myself from my history to review this book. It’s too close. But I can tell you that it’s a great book. It’s a great book because Della and the people around her are real, because they care for one another. It’s a great book because Baldwin has an ear for language and eye for metaphor. This is the kind of book that you want to read out loud so that you can feel the words dripping off your tongue. This a great book.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Ginger

    This is a stunning book dealing with a difficult issue. Della Kelly's mother has schizophrenia and she's stopped taking her medicine. Cindy Baldwin deals with mental health in a sensitive way, leading readers to feel compassion for both Della and her family. It was hard to put this book down. I was as immersed in this as I was when I read Bridge to Terabithia for the first time. Highly, highly recommended.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Sandy O'Brien

    “... looked out the window over the sink and wished, more than ever, that the sky would just open up and cry all the tears I couldn’t.” 12 year old Della watches her mom struggle with sickness while also worrying about if they will lose the farm. How will she handle everything? #BookVoyage

  24. 4 out of 5

    London Shah

    I'm not a Contemporary person––give me SFF over all other genres any day. I tried and did not finish six contemporary arcs, when finally I clicked with this little gem. This is such a beautiful debut. 12-year-old Della Kelly, and the way she deals with her mama's illness, will most definitely steal your heart❤😭. The setting is always present and hot and alive. The characters are all so nuanced and realistic. You're going to really adore Della Kelly! Her voice is absolutely perfect, as is she. Ba I'm not a Contemporary person––give me SFF over all other genres any day. I tried and did not finish six contemporary arcs, when finally I clicked with this little gem. This is such a beautiful debut. 12-year-old Della Kelly, and the way she deals with her mama's illness, will most definitely steal your heart❤️😭. The setting is always present and hot and alive. The characters are all so nuanced and realistic. You're going to really adore Della Kelly! Her voice is absolutely perfect, as is she. Baldwin skilfully and sensitively weaves a story that's at times hard-hitting and sorrowful, presenting it to us in a very considerate and accessible way. Despite its subject matter, WHERE THE WATERMELONS GROW is heartwarming, moving, and magical––I loved it <3

  25. 5 out of 5

    Jamie Pacton

    WHERE THE WATERMELONS GROW is the perfect curl-up-and-read-on-a-lightning-bug-filled-summer-night story. It has loads of heart, and it's also funny, sweet, and offers a complex family dynamic that I still think about long after finishing. It deals unflinchingly with a parent's mental illness, and perfectly captures that feeling of being a child and trying to solve grown-up in the South. Also, it made me want eat a lot of watermelon. Consider yourself warned. Have watermelon handy while reading. WHERE THE WATERMELONS GROW is the perfect curl-up-and-read-on-a-lightning-bug-filled-summer-night story. It has loads of heart, and it's also funny, sweet, and offers a complex family dynamic that I still think about long after finishing. It deals unflinchingly with a parent's mental illness, and perfectly captures that feeling of being a child and trying to solve grown-up in the South. Also, it made me want eat a lot of watermelon. Consider yourself warned. Have watermelon handy while reading. :-)

  26. 5 out of 5

    Russ

    I read one of the very early versions and loved the story from the beginning. The story is well told and deals with real life problems. Not just for those in similar circumstances, but for everyone from all walks of life because we all have things out of our control to figure out how to deal with in our lives. I can't wait to read it again in it's final version.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Sandy

    This book is spectacular. Cindy tackles the issue of mental illness on a young family: its unpredictability, the stress, the emotions and how this illness affects everyone around them. This middle school novel is not just for children, it’s for anyone who has been touched by mental illness as Della’s father says it perfectly when he lies about his wife’s absence. “Lots of people, they don’t understand an illness like your mama’s, like schizophrenia. They hear that name and start to use hurtful w This book is spectacular. Cindy tackles the issue of mental illness on a young family: its unpredictability, the stress, the emotions and how this illness affects everyone around them. This middle school novel is not just for children, it’s for anyone who has been touched by mental illness as Della’s father says it perfectly when he lies about his wife’s absence. “Lots of people, they don’t understand an illness like your mama’s, like schizophrenia. They hear that name and start to use hurtful words, like “crazy” and “psychotic” and start seeing a person as just a disease, not a human being.” So, they feel that it’s just better that they lie or not say anything about her condition. Eleven-year old Della would do anything to cure her mother. Della feels she’s at fault for her mother’s disease and since her mama won’t go to the doctor, she intends to cure her. She doesn’t just want the symptoms go away, like they have in the past, she wants a healthy mama. But as the days go by, it seems mama is getting worse. Della tries a variety of ways to cure her mama but mama’s behavior is worsening and she is being unpredictable. In an area where neighbors help neighbors, Della feels alone and scared as she knows she can’t reveal to anyone their family’s secret. Arden, her best friend, who knows a bit about the situation, carries the weight of secrecy and friendship, watching her friend suffer. I loved the Southern atmosphere of this novel where the community was positively involved in the lives of their neighbors. The concern for them yet the knowledge of knowing when to step away was felt as individuals drifted into Della’s family’s routine. The weight of responsibility that Della felt for her mother’s illness was heavy, yet that is how she felt as words of her mother’s illness were heard upon her ears. I felt for Della as she tried to help but it was like a losing battle. Her little sister was a handful and I had to laugh and shake my head at her adventures. I felt Mylie needed someone to take her out and just run with her: run and run and run! I loved the reference to the books as I read. Since I love The Graveyard Book, I was thrilled to see this book mentioned and how the character cited it. This book is filled with friendship, struggles, family, determination and love, it’s a book that you will not forget. I really enjoyed this book and feel that it’s a book that not only children will enjoy. “Sometimes when things are bad for me, books get to be some of my best friends.”

  28. 5 out of 5

    Ben Langhinrichs

    A lot of things are wonderful in 12-year-old Della's life, from her best friend, Arden, to the Bee stories she tells her little sister, Mylie, to the delicious sweet taste of cold watermelon on a hot summer day. But when she discovers that her mother's sickness might be coming back, a sickness that confuses her mother about what is real and what is not, Della decides she has to do something about it. But decisions are easier decided on than acted on, and when all her efforts fail, Della has to fa A lot of things are wonderful in 12-year-old Della's life, from her best friend, Arden, to the Bee stories she tells her little sister, Mylie, to the delicious sweet taste of cold watermelon on a hot summer day. But when she discovers that her mother's sickness might be coming back, a sickness that confuses her mother about what is real and what is not, Della decides she has to do something about it. But decisions are easier decided on than acted on, and when all her efforts fail, Della has to face the fact that she may not be able to heal her mother, and will have to work awfully hard to even heal herself. Fortunately, she is not as alone as she sometimes feels. As a reviewer, I must acknowledge that no book is read in isolation. In the past week, Time magazine posted two articles, one by Matt de la Peña, and then a response by Kate DiCamillo. Each talked about sadness and fear in children's stories, and addressed how honestly and directly authors should talk about difficult topics. Kate DiCamillo talked about asking a friend why she kept reading Charlotte's Web, and whether she thought maybe if she read it again, Charlotte wouldn't die. Her friend's response: “No,” she said. “It wasn’t that. I kept reading it not because I wanted it to turn out differently or thought that it would turn out differently, but because I knew for a fact that it wasn’t going to turn out differently. I knew that a terrible thing was going to happen, and I also knew that it was going to be okay somehow. I thought that I couldn’t bear it, but then when I read it again, it was all so beautiful. And I found out that I could bear it. That was what the story told me. That was what I needed to hear. That I could bear it somehow.” WHERE THE WATERMELONS GROW is a wonderful, heart-wrenching story filled with love and hardship and hope and harsh realities. It shows that life can be terrible and scary and out of your control, and yet it can still be beautiful, and you can bear it all somehow. I heartily recommend this to children and teens (and even adults) everywhere. Life is hard and filled with struggles, but you can bear it somehow. ** Reprinted for my review at My Comfy Chair review blog **

  29. 4 out of 5

    Shan Salter

    @kidlitexchange #partner #bookstagram #kidlitexchange #kidlit Where The Watermelons Grow By Cindy Baldwin Thanks to the @kidlitexchange network for the review copy of this book. All opinions are my own. Where The Watermelons Grow takes us on a journey with twelve-year-old, North Carolina girl, Della Kelly who tiptoes from her bed one steamy summer night only to discover her mother hearing voices that aren’t there. As the days progress, Della watches her Mama fall deeper under the veil of an acut @kidlitexchange #partner #bookstagram #kidlitexchange #kidlit Where The Watermelons Grow By Cindy Baldwin Thanks to the @kidlitexchange network for the review copy of this book. All opinions are my own. Where The Watermelons Grow takes us on a journey with twelve-year-old, North Carolina girl, Della Kelly who tiptoes from her bed one steamy summer night only to discover her mother hearing voices that aren’t there. As the days progress, Della watches her Mama fall deeper under the veil of an acute episode of schizophrenia. Initially it’s just small things like her mother fearing watermelon seeds are toxic and air conditioners are bad for your health. But these irrational concerns and non existent voices become stronger until Della can no longer recognize her mother in the body of the woman who stands before her. Desperate to prevent her mother’s downward spiral, which has previously ended in a hospitalization, Della takes it upon herself to shoulder an increasing amount of responsibility - from household chores to caring for her eighteen month old sister, and helping her daddy on the struggling, drought-ridden farm. And when that doesn’t work, she seeks some medicinal honey from the legendary, local Bee Lady- who, much to Della’s despair, advises Della to heal her own aching heart and let the medical professionals care for her mother. Throughout the book, Della’s journey continues to be heart achingly sad but Cindy Baldwin’s beautiful writing gently wraps around your heart and mesmerizes, compelling you to read on like only a master storyteller can. And Baldwin’s secondary characters are just as rich and alive as her heroine. Especially Della’s exhausted but loving father, her loyal best friend, Arden, and new neighbor, Miss Lorena. Where The Watermelons Grow is a must-read story full of love and hope despite the seriousness of the mental illness portrayed. Grab an ice cold plate of watermelon, a patch of summer sun, a box of tissues, and get ready to walk in Della’s shoes. It’s an experience not to be missed.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Emily

    After a quiet period, 12-yr-old (I think?) Della's mom's mental illness is rearing its head again. Della witnesses scenes: coming home to find her mother obsessed with the idea that watermelon seeds will poison her daughters, attacking a watermelon with singlemindedness, oblivious to a seed stuck to her forehead; coming home to find that her toddler sister has been crying in her crib ignored for hours, her diaper more than full; observing her mom pretending to take her meds but not really taking After a quiet period, 12-yr-old (I think?) Della's mom's mental illness is rearing its head again. Della witnesses scenes: coming home to find her mother obsessed with the idea that watermelon seeds will poison her daughters, attacking a watermelon with singlemindedness, oblivious to a seed stuck to her forehead; coming home to find that her toddler sister has been crying in her crib ignored for hours, her diaper more than full; observing her mom pretending to take her meds but not really taking them. Never knowing what you're going to find when you get home and how isolating and lonely that is when you want to hide it from friends, a pit of dread nearly always in your stomach--the writing of these things resonated strongly with me and likely will with kids in any sort of unreliable home situation--whether due to addiction, mental illness, cruel or messy relationships, etc. As someone with a mental illness--though not the one Della's mom has--the little signs that a bad period is on its way, the cyclical nature (never fully being out of the woods), the loss of perspective, the conviction, the desire to rebel against medication and the fear that it obscures "the truth" were all also familiar and the portrayal of Della's mom felt accurate and fair. The book will offer the cathartic relief of "not being the only one" to kids in some variation of Della's situation. The "Bee Stories" throughout--tales of how a local family of beekeepers have provided honey that "heals" ailments (not in a snake oil way, perhaps in a loving placebo way) over many generations--are irresistible and fuel Della's dreams of a honey cure for her mother. The local beekeeper gently explains how this isn't possible, but offers Della a honey that could soothe Della's own worries. Della's sudden utter hopefulness at the end, her conviction that things will be okay no matter what life throws at her (including the possibility of inheriting her mother's illness) rang a bit false to me, but I appreciate the book and think it could help some kids out of the "closet" of having a secret unstable home life. Read via digital ARC from Eidelweiss

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