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Beginners Welcome
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The acclaimed author of Where the Watermelons Grow is back with a story perfect for fans of Lynda Mullaly Hunt and Ali Benjamin, about finding friendship after a tragic loss.It's been eighty-three days...
The acclaimed author of Where the Watermelons Grow is back with a story perfect for fans of Lynda Mullaly Hunt and Ali Benjamin, about finding friendship after a tragic loss.It's been eighty-three days...
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  • The acclaimed author of Where the Watermelons Grow is back with a story perfect for fans of Lynda Mullaly Hunt and Ali Benjamin, about finding friendship after a tragic loss.

    It's been eighty-three days since Annie Lee's daddy died, but she still sees reminders of him everywhere. His record player mysteriously plays his favorite songs, there's shaving cream in the sink every morning, and the TV keeps flipping to the Duke basketball games he loved.

    She knows Mama notices it too, but Mama's been working around the clock to make ends meet. To make matters worse, Annie Lee's friends ditched her over the summer. She feels completely alone—until she meets Mitch.

    Though Mitch is tough and confident on the outside, she may need a friend just as badly as Annie Lee. But after losing so much, Annie Lee is afraid to let anyone get too close.

    And Mitch isn't the only friend trying to break through Annie Lee's defenses. Ray, an elderly pianist who plays at a local mall, has been giving her piano lessons. His music is pure magic, and Annie Lee hopes it might be the key to healing her broken heart. But when Ray goes missing, searching for him means breaking a promise to Mitch.

    Faced with once again losing those who mean the most to her, Annie Lee must make a choice: retreat back into her shell, or risk admitting how much she needs Mitch and Ray—even if it means getting hurt all over again.

    Just like in her debut, Where the Watermelons Grow, Cindy Baldwin brings her signature twist of magic to this authentically heartfelt story.

About the Author-

  • Cindy Baldwin is a fiction writer, essayist, and poet. She grew up in North Carolina and still misses the sweet watermelons and warm accents on a daily basis. 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 writing the kind of books readers can't bear to be without. She lives in Portland, Oregon, with her husband and daughter, surrounded by tall trees and wild blackberries. Where the Watermelons Grow is her debut novel and is followed by Beginners Welcome. Learn more about Cindy at www.cindybaldwinbooks.com.

Reviews-

  • Kirkus

    November 1, 2019
    Southern charm and ghostly magic bridge the loss of 11-year-old Annie Lee's daddy. The death of Annie Lee's vivacious father was sudden and unexpected. So too is moving into a cramped apartment in Durham, North Carolina, and losing her best friends in the process, and so is trying to communicate with her rigid, grief-stricken mother. Throw in the start of sixth grade, a broken washing machine, and constant signs from her father, from shaving cream in the sink every morning to his favorite songs turning on his record player, and life can be downright overwhelming. But in this first-person narration, the plucky white preteen arms herself with an "invisibility cloak" to protect her from loving and losing again. She also changes the course of her life when she sees an ad at the mall for an amateur piano competition with a cash prize. As did the protagonist of the author's first novel, Where the Watermelons Grow (2018), Annie Lee forms tight bonds with local residents, including a white pianist who prepares her for the competition, a black hairstylist, and a white classmate with her own form of invisibility. Her interactions with these three, as well as with her overworked mother, weave the storylines together and help Annie Lee begin to heal and open up her heart. A blend of other racially diverse characters creates an inclusive neighborhood. Once again, Baldwin crafts a solid story of hardship tempered by community and resilience. (Fiction. 8-12)

    COPYRIGHT(2019) Kirkus Reviews, ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

  • Publisher's Weekly

    December 16, 2019
    Sixth grader Annie Lee Fitzgerald has done her absolute best to become invisible in the 83 days following her music-loving father’s unexpected death. After all, “invisible people couldn’t be seen, and people who couldn’t be seen couldn’t be hurt.” Despite her anxious mother’s working long hours at Mary’s Maids, the bereft family struggles to make ends meet. During afternoons alone, Annie Lee secretly steals away from “old and falling-down” neighborhood North Durham to Brightleaf Square, a bright mall in a former tobacco warehouse, where an elderly gentleman plays the piano for passersby. Drawn by his magical music, which sparks emotion-tinged colors that people can see “when they need them,” Annie Lee forms a friendship with the pianist, Ray, and she begins piano lessons with him, hoping to win a cash prize. When she’s again faced with losing someone she loves, Annie Lee must decide whether to shrug off her carefully constructed invisibility. Intermingling themes of grief and loss with moments of unexpected, joyful connection, Baldwin (Where the Watermelons Grow) depicts character growth with particular grace, especially Annie Lee’s relationship with her mother, which shifts and evolves as the two navigate their new relationship without Annie Lee’s father. Ages 8–12. Agent: Elizabeth Harding, Curtis Brown Ltd.

  • School Library Journal

    Starred review from January 1, 2020

    Gr 3-7-Sixth grade in a new school is shaping up to be a lonely disaster for Annie Lee. Her father's sudden death and her two best friends' abandonment has left her shaken and aiming for invisibility. To make matters worse, Dad seems to be haunting their new apartment in Durham, NC. Shaving cream in the sink and music turning on at random times to his favorite songs are unsettling and stalling Annie Lee's healing. A new friend, herself hiding behind a tough exterior, and an old piano player at the local mall start to break through Annie Lee's resolve to stay isolated and safe. A flyer announcing a piano contest with a cash prize could be the answer to her small family's financial troubles. If only she had Dad's musical talent, or someone to teach her. Baldwin follows up the critically acclaimed Where the Watermelons Grow with a fresh tale sure to appeal to her fans. Steeped in magical realism, Annie Lee's first-person narration will strike a chord with readers and allow them to relate to the agony of her loss, which informs her fear of change and rejection. Through the power of music and a supportive community, Annie Lee slowly begins to remove her invisibility cloak and heal, dragging Mom into the land of the living right along with her. Science class features an egg-drop project, giving the story STEM connections and making the book a perfect fit for classroom use. Targeted to kids who sometimes feel invisible or afraid, Baldwin's prose challenges them to be the bravest and wisest versions of themselves, delivering the message that it is our brokenness that makes us beautiful, not our perfection. VERDICT Give to readers who enjoyed the gentle magic of Anna Meriano's "Love Sugar Magic" series or the quirky community of Leslie Connor's Waiting for Normal. For imaginative kids who appreciate a realistic problem novel with a happy ending and a touch of magic.-Kate Nafz, Fair Lawn Public Library, NJ

    Copyright 2020 School Library Journal, LLC Used with permission.

  • Booklist

    December 1, 2019
    Grades 3-6 On the heels of her father's sudden death, Annie Lee is struck both by his absence and the loss of his infectious love of music. Her situation is further complicated by having to move and start sixth grade at a new school, away from her two best friends. She finds respite at Brightleaf Mall, where she secretly begins taking piano lessons from an older gentleman named Ray. To Annie Lee, Ray's music is magical, and she believes the lessons will keep her father's memory alive. A new friendship with a girl at school, Mitch, also helps Annie Lee open up and find her feet. But when Ray goes missing, she knows she must try to find him, even if it means confessing her after-school lessons to her mother and abandoning her class presentation with Mitch. Genuine and hopeful, Annie Lee's story is one of finding courage in tough circumstances, of love and vulnerability, and of the power of music, despite one's imperfections. Give this to readers who need an extra dose of goodness.(Reprinted with permission of Booklist, copyright 2019, American Library Association.)

  • AudioFile Magazine With a gentle Southern accent and a youthful voice, narrator Cassandra Morris embodies the bereft Annie Lee after her father's unexpected death. Starting sixth grade alone after being ghosted by her former best friends, Annie Lee struggles to carve a new life for herself, first by making an unexpected friend in the tough skater girl, Mitch, at school and then by secretly befriending an elderly pianist named Ray and taking piano lessons from him. Morris gracefully captures the emotional and economic toll of such a devastating loss as Annie Lee and her mother navigate lies, grief, and moments of connection in their shifting relationship. Mitch and her family's neutral accents suggest the differences between the two families. S.C. � AudioFile 2020, Portland, Maine

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