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Where the Watermelons Grow

4.14  ·  Rating details ·  1,699 ratings  ·  420 reviews
A 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 again—that the sickness that put her mama in the hospital four years ago is back. That her ma
Hardcover, 256 pages
Published July 3rd 2018 by Quill Tree Books
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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 JELLYFI…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)
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Community Reviews

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Average rating 4.14  · 
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 ·  1,699 ratings  ·  420 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.
Megan C.
Jul 12, 2018 rated it really liked it
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)  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: books-i-wrote
I'm so excited to share this little piece of my heart with all of you!
Aug 17, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Sweet, some sad, some smiles, and throw in some hope:)

A beautiful and heartfelt book, can't think of anything else to say.

I kept wanting to give everyone big hugs and not let go.

Would highly recommend!
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!
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
Aug 02, 2019 rated it liked it
Shelves: middle-grade
I didn't know anything about this when I picked it up, I just loved the bright cover. It was more complex and sad than I expected. This is about a 12 year old girl coming to terms with her Mom's mental illness. She heartbreakingly tries to 'fix' her mom herself and has to come to grips with loving her the way she is instead of the way she wants her to be. I felt like this was really well done and tried to be true to what a situation like that would be. Della is courageous and honest and felt rea ...more
Melissa Stacy
The 2018 middle grade contemporary novel, "Where the Watermelons Grow," by Cindy Baldwin, deals with an important topic: paranoid schizophrenia in parents. In this book, the twelve-year-old first-person protagonist, Della, witnesses her mother's medication begin to fail, and then watches her mother descend into a non-functioning state, a situation that grows increasingly scary until finally, the mother is hauled off in an ambulance against her will and locked up in a mental ward until her medica ...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
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
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
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
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
Oct 01, 2019 rated it did not like it
A very quick read for a middle grade book, but I just didn't like it. Too many characters that had lots of potential for growth but their development was minimal. I wanted to be sympathetic to Della and her family but found myself getting more and more irritated with all of them. And while the honey she got from the "Bee Lady" sounded delicious, I didn't catch how it healed her heart.

"When twelve-year-old Della Kelly finds her mother furiously digging black seeds from a watermelon in the middle
Jessica Durrant
Aug 26, 2018 rated it it was amazing
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
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
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.
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
Melike Y
Jan 03, 2020 rated it it was amazing
The theme is to appreciate what you have because it can become worse
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
PinkAmy loves books, cats and naps
Della worries her mother’s schizophrenia is back. She tries to find ways to help around the house and farm so Mama can get enough rest but her mom keeps talking to invisible people and worrying about germs. Mama even thinks watermelon seeds will kill them.

WHERE THE WATERMELONS GROW is a great story about a tween dealing with her mother’s mental illness. Young Della is parentified, taking care of her baby sister and trying to fix her mother. Her dad works long hours on the farm and doesn’t see h
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
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
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

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Are you spending this season bundling up against the chill or enjoying summery southern hemisphere vibes (in which case we are...
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“You might have to live with this fear inside you for a long time.” 2 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.” 1 likes
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