Where the Watermelons Grow by Cindy Baldwin | SLJ Review

Gr 4-6 –When 12-year-old Della finds her mom digging black seeds from a watermelon in the middle of the night, she worries that the schizophrenia that put her mom in the hospital several years ago is back.

redstarBALDWIN, Cindy. Where the Watermelons Grow. 256p. HarperCollins/Harper. Jul. 2018. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9780062665867.

Gr 4-6 –When 12-year-old Della finds her mom digging black seeds from a watermelon in the middle of the night, she worries that the schizophrenia that put her mom in the hospital several years ago is back. Along with the stress of her mother’s illness, her dad is struggling to save the family farm as scorching hot temperatures and a drought threaten the crops. Della asks the local Bee Lady for magic honey, which has been known to repair the wounds of residents in their North Carolina town for generations. She also helps take care of her 16-month-old baby sister so that her mom will have more time to rest. But as her mom’s symptoms worsen, Della begins to see that rather than trying to fix her mama, she must find a way to love and accept her. The family is surrounded by helpful neighbors including Della’s best friend Arden’s family, who owns the farm next door. Della’s voice will tug at reader’s heartstrings as she tries to hold her family together. VERDICT 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.–Sarah Polace, Cuyahoga Public Library System, OH

This review was published in the School Library Journal March 2018 issue.

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