Books

2 books for tweens that focus on relationships with parents

“Where the Watermelons Grow” by Cindy Baldwin. MUST CREDIT: Washington Post photo by Bill O’Leary
“Where the Watermelons Grow” by Cindy Baldwin. MUST CREDIT: Washington Post photo by Bill O’Leary
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“Where the Watermelons Grow” by Cindy Baldwin. Ages 8 to 12.

Seeing your parents as real people can be frightening. No matter how loving and supportive they are, parents are human. And humans sometimes have problems.

Della Kelly, the main character in “Where the Watermelons Grow,” learns early on that her mom has a serious problem. Mama would sleep a lot and then not at all. She would attack germs in the house with a fury. She would sometimes hear “voices of people we knew or voices of people who only existed in her own head,” the 12-year-old says.

But other times, she would be the mama Della craves, the one who sings and reads stories. The one who seems like other kids’ moms.

Daddy explains that Mama is battling a sickness, one that affects her brain. And it seems to be getting worse - like the time Mama was rushed to the hospital and stayed for a month. Della figures she can’t let that happen again.

But whom can she turn to for help?

Daddy is worn down, struggling to manage the family farm during a scorching North Carolina summer with no rain and a disease threatening his prized watermelons. He also has to take care of her sister Mylie, a toddler who’s nearly nonstop trouble.

Della’s best friend, Arden, lives next door. She’s known Arden’s family forever, but Della doesn’t want to worry them, and she wants to preserve “Mama’s dignity,” as Daddy says.

Perhaps the special honey from the Bee Lady would do the trick, Della thinks.

“It was pretty well accepted that the Bee Lady’s honey could cheer you up if you were feeling down, or fix your broken heart, or help you see things clearer when you had big decisions to make,” she says.

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The legendary honey has its limits, however. The Bee Lady offers help, but not the quick fix Della hopes for. But it might just make her brave enough to accept and love Mama, even without a cure.

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In “The Science of Breakable Things,” by Tae Keller, Natalie wants to cure her mom, who suffers from depression. So she enters an egg-drop competition and hopes to win the money to take her mom to see magical flowers that survive against the odds. She’s sure the flowers will give her mom hope.

“All the Greys on Greene Street,” by Laura Tucker, is a mystery set in New York’s art community. Ollie’s father, an art restorer, disappears one night. Her mom, a sculptor, isn’t panicked. Instead, she hasn’t gotten out of bed for days. Ollie has to find her dad before other grown-ups get involved, which might mean her mom would disappear, too.

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