MG at Heart Book Club Book Review: WHERE THE WATERMELONS GROW, by Cindy Baldwin

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Our August book club pick was the beautiful and lyrical WHERE THE WATERMELONS GROW by our contributor and co-founder, Cindy Baldwin!

Twelve-year-old Della feels responsible for her mother’s schizophrenia and hopes that taking on extra responsibilities around the house will give her mom time to rest and get better. She even turns to her community’s Bee Lady hoping that magic honey will help. But the Bee Lady tells her that the magic in her honeys “is that they bring out the strength a thing—or a person—has already got inside.”

Della learns that even though she can’t get “fix” her mother’s illness, their family will get through their struggles together, because sickness doesn’t make their love for each other less real. Their strength lies not just in themselves but also in the supportive community around them.

In the opening chapters of the book, as Della is coming to terms with the fact that her mother’s sickness is returning, we see her drawing a half-blue, half-yellow sun. Her best friend says that the colors are depressing, but Della has a different idea about the drawing:

“…I liked it because of that, because of the way the happiness and the sadness swirled together in the middle, two halves of a whole.” 

In the same way that Della loves her drawing of the sun, we love this book because it is both sweet and somber, difficult and uplifting. We love the relationships between Della and her mom, her Dad and sister, her best friend, and her community. We love them because they’re real.

“It just looked real. Good and bad. Sad and happy. Worrying and laughing.”

This lovely and important story will transport young readers right into the middle of a hot southern summer and leave them begging for a taste of the Bee Lady’s watermelon blossom honey. But this book, I think, carries the same sort of magic as the honey: its bittersweet but optimistic ending leaves you with a glow that’ll linger long after you finish reading.

To learn more about Cindy, or for printable drawing pages, activities, recipes, and discussion questions, check out our Middle Grade at Heart newsletter devoted to WHERE THE WATERMELONS GROW here.  

. . .

The Middle Grade @ Heart book club pick for September is THE HOUSE THAT LOU BUILT by Mae Respicio! Stay tuned for more posts about this awesome book and don’t forget to join us for our Twitter chat on WHERE THE WATERMELONS GROW on September 4!

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