Midsummer’s Mayhem is a fantastically imaginative middle grade novel about friendship, family, and learning to appreciate your unique strengths. The story follows 11-year-old Mimi Mackson, who is a passionate baker and the youngest of four siblings in a big Indian American family. The novel features some whimsical descriptions of food, as well as fairies, magic, and even an enchanted forest.
The story begins the summer after Mimi’s best friend, Emma, moves away. Mimi misses her friend Emma and their adventurous quests in the woods together. She also longs to find her place as the youngest member of the Mackson family. Mimi’s parents are often busy with work and Mimi struggles to feel seen among her siblings who each have respective talents in theater, dance and soccer. When the new While Away Café opens up in her town and advertises a baking competition, Mimi jumps at the opportunity to step into the spotlight and give it her best shot.
But as Mimi starts preparing for the baking competition, strange and inexplicable things start to happen. In the woods behind her house, Mimi befriends a young boy, Vik, who seemingly appears out of thin air to help Mimi prepare for the competition. Mimi’s father who is a distinguished food critic loses his keen palate, devouring almost any food in sight. Then, Mimi’s siblings get wound up in a mysterious love entanglement after eating some enchanted cookies. Mimi must use her baking abilities and acuity to remedy these bizarre happenings in LaRocca’s clever reimagining of Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream.
The novel is filled with vivid descriptions of delectable treats as Mimi experiments in the kitchen. The family’s Indian American heritage is also beautifully woven into the novel without being at the center of the plot, but still being very much present, especially in the spices and flavors referenced in Mimi’s baking. Particularly compelling for middle grade readers, is the sense of adventure and magic which permeates the book.
Midsummer’s Mayhem is overall a wondrous and original novel. Yet one peculiar subtlety in the novel is a reference made to Titania and Oberon’s quarrel over possession of an “Indian changeling boy.” This element, while perhaps being included in homage to the original Shakespeare play, unfortunately feels unnecessary – especially due to the orientalist undertone present in the original Shakespeare play. Nonetheless, discussing this reference with a critical perspective could also prove an interesting conversation to have with young readers. Overall, Midsummer’s Mayhemis a fantastic book which will not only engross young readers, but also inspire their imaginations, awaken their sense of adventure, and encourage them to appreciate their own unique talents. Furthermore, the book includes a charming collection of recipes so readers can experience Mimi’s baking creations for themselves – they look delicious!
Midsummer’s Mayhem which was released in 2019 was author Rajani LaRocca’s first novel, but certainly not her last. LaRocca is now the award-winning author of several novels and picture books including Seven Golden Rings (2020), Red, White, and Whole (2021), Bracelets for Bina’s Brothers (2021), Much Ado About Baseball (2021), Where Three Oceans Meet (2021), My Little Golden Book About Kamala Harris (2021), The Secret Code Inside You (2021), and more. I look forward to LaRocca’s many children’s books to come, including Where Three Oceans Meet (launching August 2021) in which Sejal, her mother, and grandmother, travel together to southern India, sharing experiences and memories along the way.