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The Key to Extraordinary

Review

The Key to Extraordinary

The author of A SNICKER OF MAGIC returns with another “spindiddly” tale of courage, community and mystery. Twelve-year-old Emma Pearl Casey is the official tour guide of the Blackbird Hollow Cemetery, which also happens to be her backyard. She has the lowdown on all of the local characters --- living, dead and in between --- making her an ideal guide and narrator. 

Emma’s no stranger to death, having lost both of her parents and grown up alongside a graveyard. She takes comfort in a deeply rooted connection to the other women on her family tree. Known as the Wildflowers, each experiences a Destiny Dream, dutifully recorded in the Book of Days and passed down to the next generation of girls. The dream always features a field of flowers, and is said to present a vision of the future. Emma is confident that when the dream arrives, her path to glory will become clear and the “Big Empty” feeling --- the one that comes with being an orphan --- will be a little more manageable.

Balancing dreamlike description with engaging action is no easy feat, but Lloyd succeeds for the most part in carrying the narrative forward.

But when the Destiny Dream finally comes, Emma is baffled. What could a bouquet of flowers and a rusty key have to do with her fate? The local lore of Blackbird Hollow, Tennessee may hold the answers she needs. Together with best friend Cody Belle and new kid Earl Chance, Emma sets out to find a long-lost treasure and save her family’s bakery from greedy developers.

Natalie Lloyd weaves surrealism and suspense to make for a quick and compelling read. Balancing dreamlike description with engaging action is no easy feat, but Lloyd succeeds for the most part in carrying the narrative forward. Without spoiling the novel’s big reveal, I will say that I was disappointed in the whitewashed portrait of the southern town’s history. For all its vibrant characters, Blackbird Hollow is far from diverse.

Reviewed by Emma Kantor on March 1, 2016

The Key to Extraordinary
by Natalie Lloyd

  • Publication Date: April 25, 2017
  • Genres: Children's 8-12, Family Life, Mystery
  • Paperback: 240 pages
  • Publisher: Scholastic Press
  • ISBN-10: 0545552761
  • ISBN-13: 9780545552769