Book: One Mixed-Up Night
Author: Catherine Newman
Age Range: 8-12
As a long-time fan of From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler, I found the premise of Catherine Newman's One Mixed-Up Night irresistible. Two friends sneak off and spend a night creating their own adventures in an Ikea store. What I found when I read the book was that Newman absolutely captures the fun of being somewhere cool that one is not supposed to be, while also making the book about something more substantive (grief).
Frankie (a girl) basically comes up with the scheme as a way to try to shake up her best friend, Walter, after Walter suffers a loss. As Frankie tells readers in the very first paragraph, these are not bad kids getting into trouble. Rather, these are "dorky geeks" who are more than a bit obsessed with Ikea, and are in need of a serious distraction. While the plot of One Mixed-Up Night requires some suspension of disbelief for the adult reader, I think that middle grade readers will have no trouble at all. What kid wouldn't want to spend the night in a huge store full of furniture and other cool things, able to jump on couches and have pillow rights and race shopping carts, with no adult supervision?
Here's Frankie's description of Walter:
"He's hard to describe, Walter, because he's kind of bubbling over with energy, but then he's also so chill. And some people assume he's going to be good at sports because he's black--or his mom is, so technically he's mixed race--and he's um, not good at sports. One of our favorite things (it's still magneted to Walter's refrigerator) is this end-of-year report he got from our gym teacher when we were in first grade. We loved this teacher, who wrote on Walter's report: "Walter is one of the finest students I have had the pleasure of teaching. He's a model of sportsmanship, good nature, and serious effort. That said, his athletic abilities will continue to develop as he works on the following:"--we especially love that colon--"Running. Jumping. Throwing balls. Catching balls. Passing. Receiving. Strength. Coordination. Balance." (Page 21)
Meanwhile, Frankie is working on carving out a modicum of independence from her "pretty great", but very involved, parents. Like this:
"And now, in sixth grade? I was starting to realize that I didn't have to (tell her mother everything). That I could have this private part of my life inside my own head, and I could share it or not. And if I didn't, nobody would even know about it. It was kind of strange--like discovering that there was a hole in the floor underneath your bed, filled with jewels and gold coins, and you could just go ahead and not mention it to anybody." (Page 24)
What a great depiction of starting to grow up! One more, then you can go read this yourself:
"Do you know how you can just feel completely strange in the world sometimes? Like everyone's one way and you're another? Or like there's some translator chip that someone forgot to program you with, and other kids joke about stuff and you don't know what they're talking about? (Page 71)
Again, pitch-perfect, without being overly introspective.
One Mixed-Up Night is a super-fun book about two kids who scheme to spend the night in an Ikea store. But it's much more than that, too. It's about growing up, being loyal to a friend, coping with grief, and taking responsibility. And yes, it's about the cool kitchen items that you can find in an Ikea store, and what you might pack for a sleepover. This is a book that definitely belongs in all libraries serving middle grade readers. Highly recommended, and one of my favorite new releases of the year.
Publisher: Random House Books for Young Readers (@RandomHouseKids)
Publication Date: September 5, 2017
Source of Book: Purchased it.
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