Beginners Welcome (Hardcover)
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.
"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."
— School Library Journal (starred review)
“As delicate and powerful as a sonata, Annie Lee’s story of music, magic, loss, and love should not be missed!”
— Jessica Day George, New York Times bestselling author of Tuesdays at the Castle
“Southern charm and ghostly magic bridge the loss of 11-year-old Annie Lee’s daddy. Once again, Baldwin crafts a solid story of hardship tempered by community and resilience.”
— Kirkus Reviews
“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.”
“Intermingling themes of grief and loss with moments of unexpected, joyful connection, Baldwin depicts character growth with particular grace.”
— Publishers Weekly