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Book Review: Catherine Newman’s “One Mixed-Up Night”

In Catherine Newman’s middle-grade novel, two friends embark on the ultimate sleepover.

TEEN REVIEW | Wyatt Seelig

One Mixed-Up Night is a book about kids who do something really risky. Walter and Frankie weren’t exactly running away. They told their parents they’d be at each other’s houses, but they weren’t. Instead, they spent the night in an Ikea store for Walter’s birthday. It’s a night that makes their friendship stronger, and helps Walter through a tough time.

The book starts at what’s basically the middle of the story. Frankie and Walter are in the Ikea, hiding from the security guard, and you just have to know how they got there. Frankie tells you the story, and you go back and find out everything that led up to that point. And then things really start to happen.

Catherine Newman “One Mixed-Up Night”

I had never read From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler, which One Mixed-Up Night is kind of based on, but it didn’t matter. I haven’t ever been in an Ikea store, either—but everything they said about the book and the store made me curious. I wondered how they would manage to stay in a store after it closed, and what they’d do once they were in it and it was dark.

Having Frankie and Walter talk about a store and another book made the whole thing seem more real. It almost felt like watching a movie; there was so much detail. And as you read, everything sort of piles up into a big commotion, and it just gets more and more chaotic. It’s so much fun, except you know it’s building toward the end of the book, and I didn’t want this book to end.

One Mixed-Up Night would be a good book for people who love to read, and for picky readers, too. It’s exciting and it keeps you turning the pages to see what will happen next, which is fun even if you’re not someone who normally spends a lot of time reading. It’s also a book that works for a lot of ages and different kinds of readers, because it’s got good characters and a lot of action, but it’s not scary or sad. I loved it. I can’t wait to see what Catherine Newman writes next.

Wyatt Seelig is a sixth grader who attends Crossroads Academy in Lyme, New Hampshire. His favorite book is Ready Player One, but One Mixed-Up Night is a close second.

PARENT REVIEW | By KJ Dell’Antonia

I have read From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler. I’ve also been to an Ikea—oh yeah, I’ve eaten the meatballs. And, disclosure: Catherine Newman, who wrote One Mixed-Up Night, is a friend of mine. But if my son hadn’t loved this book, I wouldn’t have read it. And if I hadn’t loved it too, I wouldn’t be writing about it. I would have maintained a discreet silence. But still, it’s only fair that you know that I know her.

That first paragraph—casual, slangy, written as though we know one another—is exactly how the story in One Mixed-Up Night is told, and it’s a voice that grabs the reader and doesn’t let go. From the first declaration (“People think that dorky geeks who read all the time are the kinds of kids who don’t get into trouble. But they’re wrong. We do.”), right into the surprising starter twist (they wouldn’t even be in that kind of trouble if it weren’t for the books they read), Frankie is a narrator who keeps the reader listening, and like the best storytellers, she saves up the most important stuff for last.

One Mixed-Up Night is a book that moves fast, with a straightforward, engaging story and a lot of heart (there’s a tragedy at the bottom of exactly why Frankie and her best friend, Walter, come up with their crazy Ikea dream and actually make it happen). It’s in the style of the kinds of children’s books many of us grew up on, like Harriet the Spy and A Wrinkle in Time, written by someone who clearly hasn’t forgotten what it’s like to be a kid, aware of the adult world and also aware that it’s a good place to be on the edges of while you still can.

Younger teens, especially, will love putting themselves in Frankie and Walter’s shoes. Slightly older teens will see it as a fun break from the heavier fare that tends to fill the Young Adult shelves. And while a kid doesn’t have to have read From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler to enjoy One Mixed-Up Night, reading the latter might inspire an interest in the former. My son’s already put in a request.

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KJ Dell’Antonia is a regular contributor to The New York Times and the former editor of its Motherlode blog.  

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