Where the Watermelons Growby Cindy Baldwin Published 03 Jul 2018
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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.
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.
"Where the Watermelons Grow" Reviews
What a lush, gorgeously written book. Della has such a distinctive voice, and the atmosphere and place in this book is like another character.
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."
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.
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.
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!
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!