You may recall how much I loved Natalie Lloyd's novel A Snicker of Magic. In fact, I was a little hesitant to read her new book because... what if it wasn't as delicious?
I shouldn't have doubted.
Like Snicker, The Key to Extraordinary is set in a unique little town tucked away in the Appalachians. Blackbird Hollow is a magical place where flowers bloom everywhere, all the time, and where a great treasure is rumored to have been buried back during the Civil War. Young Emma lives there, next to the cemetery in what used to be a church and is now the Boneyard Cafe. Emma's older brother and grandmother run the cafe, and Emma leads tours of the graveyard. Emma's mother died not too long ago, and her father died before she was born. But before her mother died, she gave Emma a special book about all the women in their family, generation beyond generation.
All of the women in Emma's family have a special gift, a Destiny Dream that will reveal the path they should tread through life. Emma hasn't had her Destiny Dream yet, and she's anxious to have it because she's sure it will help her figure out how to save the Boneyard Cafe from destruction. Her grandma is just about ready to sell it off to a greedy contractor who will tear it down and build something depressing like a strip mall in its stead.
Emma's sure that when she has her destiny dream, it'll show her how to find the legendary treasure hidden somewhere in Blackbird Hollow, and that treasure will solve... not all her problems, but a good many of them.
Like A Snicker of Magic, this book belongs to the realm of Magical Realism, set in the real world but with magical touches here and there. This magic is gentle, whimsical, and has nothing to do with casting spells. Emma and her family can't work magic, but the world of Blackbird Hollow has magic running through it, especially in its special flowers.
Particularly Good Bits:
Blue says true friends turn a bad day into something wonderful faster than a pancake flip (p. 39).
"Do you remember what Mama said about fear?" I asked. "She said fear is just a flashlight that helps you find your courage" (p. 42).
The storm clouds had drifted away to reveal the setting sun. I stared down at our shadows on the ground and realized grief feels exactly that way sometimes, like a flat shadow (p. 79).
I know I'm lucky to have a place in the world so special I never want to leave it. But that doesn't make the letting go any easier (p. 172).
If This was a Movie, I Would Rate It: G for genuinely good and sweet and lovely.
By the way, I recently read a cool interview with Natalie Lloyd here, where she shared several of her favorite books from her childhood. Thought you might enjoy it too.