Here’s a magical midsummer book for the summer solstice! I was lucky enough to get an ARC of this book at KidLitCon, and waited to read it until closer to its release date.
Midsummer’s Mayhem by Rajani LaRocca. Yellow Jacket, 2019.
Mimi is the youngest in her family, and feels that the major talents of her three older siblings – good at sports and drama, and all able to effortlessly play music together – have all passed over her. We as readers, of course, can tell that this isn’t really true as she is an excellent and dedicated baker, whipping up different favorite treats for each of her family members for different occasions. But she’s still missing her best friend, who recently moved away.
Many more changes come all at once – she hears a mysterious flute playing in the woods near her house and sees a strange, colorful bird. A new bakery, the While Away, run by the glamorous Mrs. T. has opened up in town, advertising a contest for young bakers with the prize of a lesson with former hometown celebrity baker and Mimi’s personal idol Puffy Fay. It’s pretty obvious from early on that Mrs. T is Titania, especially as the cafe is staffed by Peaseblossom and Cobweb, and Mimi’s brother is involved in a production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream. ( I’d wondered whether or not kids would recognize the Shakespeare connection, but my nine-year-old looked at the cover and commented right away that it looked like A Midsummer Night’s Dream.) Much as in Star-Crossed, the plot here echoes that of the play, with a crazily enchanted person – in this case, Mimi’s food writer dad, who just starts eating everything in sight and is no longer able to distinguish the tastes – as well as some young love and a contest between Oberon and Titania.
There’s depth, though, along with the hilarity of magically induced crushes, as Mimi tries to figure out what’s wrong, makes friends with a mysterious boy, and pushes herself to excel and to learn from failures. Mimi’s mixed Indian-American heritage is even tied nicely into the plot, without it being a story focused just on that aspect of who she is. What with the magic, the relationships, the humor, and the delicious-sounding treats, this has lots to appeal to a wide range of readers.
For more delicious treats paired with magic, try The Dragon with the Chocolate Heart by Stephanie Burgis, the Love Sugar Magic books by Anna Meriano, or Baking Magic by Diane Zahler. Those more interested in Indian-inspired fantasy could also read The Serpent’s Secret by Sayantani DasGupta or Aru Shah and the End of Time by Roshani Chokshi, both with sequels out this year.