Review: I absolutely loved and adored Natalie Lloyd's debut middle grade novel, A Snicker of Magic, and I could not wait to read another book by her. The Key to Extraordinary also contains the same elements that I loved in A Snicker of Magic: a wonderful cast of characters, magical realism, and an uplifting story.
In The Key to Extraordinary a young girl from a long line of special women fights to save her home. Like all of the women in her family, Emma is a wildflower. A wildflower is a woman destined to live an extraordinary life, experiencing a Destiny Dream that reveals her unique path and talent. Emma is worried that she has not received her dream yet. She is also struggling with what she calls "the big empty", grieving the loss of her ex-rocker mom. Luckily Emma has a wonderful support system from her family and friends who help ease the big empty from encroaching upon her life. She also keeps busy by helping out in the Boneyard Cafe, the family business situated on the edge of a cemetery, and giving tours of the cemetery to tourists. The café has fallen on hard times, and when it looks like Granny Blue, her tough, tattooed, ex-boxer grandmother, might sell the place to a developer, Emma looks for answers within the local folklore about a hidden treasure and a ghost.
With the help of a small cast of quirky characters including a boy who is traumatized into muteness and magical flora, Emma finds her true destiny and eases her troubles through the journey. When she finally has her own Destiny Dream, it seems to point to the treasure, but the clues are frustratingly vague. The prose is bubbly and light, with a cheerful, optimistic tone despite some of darker subjects alluded in the story. I enjoyed the unraveling of the mystery behind the treasure hunt and the message of everyone is extraordinary in their uniqueness. Readers who enjoy mysteries with a good dose of magic, whimsical setting, and an uplifting message will enjoy this book.
Rating: 4 stars
Words of Caution: The book touches upon death and grieving as Emma's mother died of cancer. Recommended for strong Grade 3 readers and up.
If you like this book try: Savvy by Ingrid Law, A Snicker of Magic by Natalie Lloyd, Three Times Lucky by Sheila Turnage