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Where the Watermelons Grow

4.22  ·  Rating details ·  883 ratings  ·  266 reviews
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.

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
Hardcover, 256 pages
Published July 3rd 2018 by HarperCollins
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Cindy The publisher recommends it for ages 8-12! It would be good for children who enjoyed books like WONDER, BECAUSE OF WINN-DIXIE, THE THING ABOUT…moreThe publisher recommends it for ages 8-12! It would be good for children who enjoyed books like WONDER, BECAUSE OF WINN-DIXIE, THE THING ABOUT JELLYFISH, or A SNICKER OF MAGIC.(less)

Community Reviews

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4.22  · 
Rating details
 ·  883 ratings  ·  266 reviews

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Amanda Rawson Hill
Oct 28, 2016 rated it it was amazing
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.
Leigh Mar
Oct 28, 2016 rated it it was amazing
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!
Megan C.
Jul 12, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: middle-grade
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 ...more
Dec 16, 2016 added it  ·  (Review from the author)
Shelves: books-i-wrote
I'm so excited to share this little piece of my heart with all of you!
Aug 28, 2018 rated it liked it
Like Smack Dab in the Middle of Maybe, this book deals with mental illness and I liked it better because it seemed more realistic. Young Della Kelly's mother is schizophrenic, which illness became manifest with Della's birth. Although she was hospitalized and given medication when Della was 8, the birth of her little sister causes her to progressively worsen. Della feels responsible, and tries to help her Mama using the logic of a child, but her various strategies don't work. Eventually, the Bee ...more
Jul 07, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2018
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
Laura Gardner
Jun 04, 2018 rated it it was amazing
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 ...more
Jul 02, 2018 rated it it was amazing
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
A.L. Sowards
I read this to my twins. I wasn’t sure how much they’d like it, because they usually prefer books with more adventure, but this held their interest and made them feel for the characters. It’s about Della, a girl whose mother has schizophrenia, and her challenges, fears, and growth as her mother has a particularly hard summer. The writing was beautiful, and I hope it helps my daughters develop more empathy for those struggling with mental illness and their families. Note to parents (since this is ...more
Jun 17, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: kid-lit
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 ...more
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!
Jen Petro-Roy
Nov 30, 2017 rated it it was amazing
What a lush, gorgeously written book. Della has such a distinctive voice, and the atmosphere and place in this book is like another character.
Jul 03, 2018 rated it it was amazing
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
Aug 23, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This beautiful MG novel was one that my heart didn't know it needed. But oh, did I need it.
You see, I'm Della's mama. I don't have schizophrenia, but I have other mental illnesses, and some chronic physical conditions that limit me. I'm not the perfect mom that I want to be, that I imagined I'd be. And sometimes I worry that my kids will resent me for not being enough. For being too tired to do everything they want to. For gifting them with a genetic heritage that's going to impact their lives a
Adrienne Young
Mar 13, 2018 rated it it was amazing
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.
Melissa Sarno
Feb 06, 2018 rated it it was amazing
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.
Erik This Kid Reviews Books
Dec 30, 2018 rated it it was amazing
This was a fascinating book – it shows a family dealing with a member’s insanity, but in a middle grade context. It was an interesting concept, and one that was executed very well. It is obvious that Baldwin plotted this story out very carefully. The limited knowledge that Della has about schizophrenia only adds to the intensity of the story. She does not know why her mother is acting the way that she is and Della is frightened even more by her mother’s actions. Della’s lack of knowledge of the ...more
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
Jun 20, 2018 rated it it was amazing
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
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 ...more
Jessica Durrant
Aug 26, 2018 rated it it was amazing
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Jul 05, 2018 rated it it was amazing
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
Jul 18, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Beautifully written prose! I was transported to rural North Carolina during a hot summer. In this debut novel, Baldwin captured the sights, sounds, smells and even the taste of summer. Amidst this masterfully crafted setting, Baldwin realistically and respectfully explored mental illness and it's far reaching effect on families. The central issue being not the patient's experience but 12 year old daughter Della's life and the impact her mother's illness had on it. It was refreshing to read a sto ...more
Nov 28, 2017 rated it it was amazing
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.
Nov 10, 2018 rated it really liked it
Thank you @kidlitexchange for providing me with a review copy of this book. All opinions are my own. Where the Watermelons Grow is now available to purchase or request from your local library.

This middle grade story is unique and tackles some heavy issues in a really beautiful, tender way. Della King is a 12 year old girl who is trying her best to beat the unbearable summer heat. She spends her days looking after her spirited, younger sister, helping to pick crops and tending to her family’s fa
Oct 10, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Such a sweet and sensitive book. Della learns lessons that we all need to remember when difficult times come in our lives. It's a tender reminder of the need for personal strength and for help from those we love. It's also a empathetic and realistic view of mental illness and it's effects on individuals and families.
Jul 06, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: young-adult
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.
Stacey Bene
Jun 28, 2018 rated it it was amazing
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!
Melanie Sumrow
Jul 12, 2018 rated it it was amazing
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.
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.
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Cindy Baldwin is a Carolina girl who moved to the opposite coast and is gamely doing her part in keeping Portland weird. As a middle schooler, she kept a book under her bathroom sink to read over and over while fixing her hair or brushing her teeth, and she dreams of someday writing just that kind of book. Her debut middle grade novel, WHERE THE WATERMELONS GROW, received multiple starred reviews ...more
“You might have to live with this fear inside you for a long time.” 0 likes
“It was going to be okay, because even if I didn’t have my own mama right now, I had a life—and a town—full of other mamas who were looking out for me.” 0 likes
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