cover image Where the Watermelons Grow

Where the Watermelons Grow

Cindy Baldwin. HarperCollins, $16.99 (256p) ISBN 978-0-06-266586-7

“I closed my eyes, trying to forget all about those watermelon seeds, all about Mama yelling and acting crazier than she had in a long, long time, wishing there was anything in the world that could pull Mama’s brain back together.” It’s been years since 12-year-old Della’s mother’s schizophrenia took control. Now, as a drought threatens their North Carolina farm, her mother once again becomes preoccupied by germs and debilitated by fear. Della tries to step up, taking care of her sister, Mylie, a rebellious toddler, and letting her mother rest. She feels responsible; after all, the doctors say that it was Della’s birth that first woke the schizophrenia. Still, she can’t help but wish for a normal mother, and she is disappointed in her father, whose own anxiety closes him off, leaving Della abandoned. In her debut novel, Baldwin presents a realistic portrayal of life with a mentally ill parent; the simultaneous confusion and frustrated anger ring true. There isn’t an easy answer to Della’s guilt and her mother’s illness, but, with the help of family and friends, Della begins to view her mother as she is—sick—and accept the support of those who love her. Ages 8–12. (July)