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Where the Watermelons Grow Hardcover – July 3, 2018
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Fans of The Thing About Jellyfish and A Snicker of Magic will be swept away by Cindy Baldwin’s debut middle grade about a girl coming to terms with her mother’s mental illness. An Oregon Spirit Award Honor book.
When twelve-year-old Della Kelly finds her mother furiously digging black seeds from a watermelon in the middle of the night and talking to people who aren't there, Della worries that it’s happening again—that the sickness that put her mama in the hospital four years ago is back. That her mama is going to be hospitalized for months like she was last time.
With her daddy struggling to save the farm and her mama in denial about what’s happening, it’s up to Della to heal her 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, North Carolina, for generations.
But when the Bee Lady says that the solution might have less to do with fixing Mama’s brain and more to do with healing her own heart, Della must learn that love means accepting her mama just as she is.
From School Library Journal
★ “Della’s voice will tug at readers’ heartstrings as she tries to hold her family together. Middle grade stories about mental illness, particularly those that focus on empathy and acceptance, are rare. This heartfelt story will stay with readers. A top choice.” — School Library Journal (starred review)
★ “Baldwin has written a heartbreaking, yet heartening, story that explores mental illness and its effects on an entire family. Readers will connect with the novel’s well-formed characters and be absorbed by the plot, which pulls no punches but doesn’t overwhelm.” — ALA Booklist (starred review)
★ “Cindy Baldwin’s graceful debut is an ode to family and community. Hints of sweet magical realism touch Where the Watermelons Grow, balancing this exquisite novel’s bittersweet authenticity.” — Shelf Awareness (starred review)
★ “In her debut novel, Baldwin presents a realistic portrayal of life with a mentally ill parent.” — Publishers Weekly (starred review)
“[Della’s] first-person narration is realistically earthy without crossing into gritty. This debut novel gushes with Southern charm. This story’s as sweet as Della’s daddy’s watermelons but never saccharine.” — Kirkus Reviews
“This has a tenderness that will appeal to fans of DiCamillo’s Because of Winn-Dixie.” — Bulletin of the Center for Children’s Books
“Della’s story is a reminder that even under the toughest rinds of troubles we can find the cool, sustaining sweetness of friendship.” — Kirby Larson, author of the Newbery Honor Book Hattie Big Sky
“Where the Watermelons Grow takes a close look at the unpredictable and debilitating nature of schizophrenia. Baldwin writes with a genuine voice.” — Voice of Youth Advocates (VOYA)
“Where the Watermelons Grow is a spot-on, insightful novel about a preteen learning to live with and accept a parent’s mental illness.” — BookPage.com
- ASIN : 0062665863
- Publisher : Quill Tree Books (July 3, 2018)
- Language : English
- Hardcover : 256 pages
- ISBN-10 : 9780062665867
- ISBN-13 : 978-0062665867
- Reading age : 10 - 12 years, from customers
- Lexile measure : 1020L
- Grade level : 3 - 7
- Item Weight : 12.8 ounces
- Dimensions : 5.5 x 0.89 x 8.25 inches
- Best Sellers Rank: #1,052,085 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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This book. This book felt so different to almost any middle grade book I've ever read. Fearlessly, Cindy Baldwin takes on the struggles a person, and especially a kid, goes through when someone they love has mental health issues. In this story, Della begins to get worried when her Mama starts showing signs of schizophrenia again. They've been through it before--when Della was 8--but this time, everything is worse. And Della is just certain that there is something she can do to help her Mama get healed up permanently.
I don't want to get too personal in this review, but I have seen this first hand. Mental health issues can be scary. And for some reason, they carry a stigma. Instead of offering real help, we often judge. We think 'if they just try harder they wouldn't be sick.' We tell them 'it's all in your head.' And when one parent is ill, and the other is overwhelmed trying to deal with life and everything, sometimes kids get forgotten. Sometimes, we don't acknowledge their struggles as well.
Where the Watermelons Grow was hard to read, because I knew the situation all too well. But at the same time, it was a beautiful portrayal of how we must all band together. How we can support each other in extended community families. How being open and willing to share both the good and bad ties us together in ways we can't imagine.
The writing is gorgeous and the use of the summer heat and drought made me hot in the middle of winter. All the characters are so real. Well-rounded, and each with their own struggles, even if they weren't at the center of the story. I wished I could visit Maryville, North Carolina for myself (though maybe not in the middle of summer), and get to know them all. :)
I highly recommend it
This book is important for both children living with mental illness in their family and those who do not. For the latter group, this book will help them have a greater understanding of mental illness, but it will also help them empathize with peers who have the same struggles as Della. For children like Della, reading this book might help them realize there are plenty of adults who are willing to step in and love on them when their parents are unable.
Sometimes you read a book and forget that there's an author behind it, because the words are so perfectly woven, but also so down-to-earth and unassuming. Neither trying too hard nor not trying enough.
Della's voice in the novel is at once strong and scared, nice and not-so-much, joyful and devastated, littered with the kind of realness and change and growth that we all have so much of in our lives. There's a touch of magic, but not too much as to make the book saccharine or unreal. A perfect blend of reality, charm - and most of all - hope.
I can't imagine a better treatment of the subject at hand. This seems like a story that needed to be told, and couldn't have found a better way than through the sweetness of Della's beautiful story. Truly a must-read.