Patience, patience. That's what little Jesse must practice as she waits for her watermelon to ripen--a summertime lesson in delayed gratification. Jesse attends to the melon's needs, listens to it, pampers it. When the relatives come, Jesse must wait still longer as the melon surrenders its summer heat to a lake's cooling waters. Appelt (Bayou Lullaby, 1995, etc.) has a way with similes: In the heat, ""air wrinkled up like an unironed shirt"" and a long day ""stretched like a lazy ol' cat."" There is a pleasurable tension running through the book: Patience is a hard-won virtue. Yet Jesse is admirably resolute, even when her yearning is nearly palpable. Gottlieb's childlike, fiercely two-dimensional illustrations do the story justice, in oil pastels that richly convey the torpor of a summer day and the sticky juices of the melon when it's finally cracked open.