Happy Monday, everyone!
Today's Chinese/Lunar New Year's, so it seems appropriate that I'm reviewing a book that's full of magic, family and love - much like the holiday itself.
I'm delving into Natalie Lloyd's sophomore novel The Key to Extraordinary, and let me just tell you now: this is one that you don't want to miss.
MMGM is a feature hosted by the fabulous Shannon Messenger on her blog every week!
Expected publication: February 23rd 2016 by Scholastic Press
Format read: ARC via publisher
But along the way, Emma learns that sometimes, destiny isn't as clear-cut as it may seem. Sometimes, destiny needs a little nudg
For Emma, her own dream can't come soon enough. Right before her mother died, Emma promised that she'd do whatever it took to fulfill her destiny, and she doesn't want to let her mother down.
But when Emma's dream finally arrives, it points her toward an impossible task--finding a legendary treasure hidden in her town's cemetery. If Emma fails, she'll let down generations of extraordinary ancestors . . . including her own mother. But how can she find something that's been missing for centuries and might be protected by a mysterious singing ghost?
With her signature blend of lyrical writing, quirky humor, and unforgettable characters, Natalie Lloyd's The Key to Extraordinarycements her status as one of the most original voices writing for children today.
After losing her mother to illness, Emma has been desperate to get her destiny dream - the dream that all the women in her family have, telling them what their futures are meant to be. Emma promised her mother that she would do everything she can to fulfill the family legacy as a Wildflower, the nickname given to all the extraordinary women who have had the destiny dreams before her. .
But once her dream does happen, Emma's path isn't as clear-cut as she once expected. It seems that her destiny is directly tied to the destiny of her small town, and it might be in her fate to influence both her path and those around her, as well.
Like Natalie Lloyd's debut novel, The Key to Extraordinary as magical, as it is unforgettable. From the first page, Lloyd deftly brings readers on a journey that challenges them to look differently at family, legacies and self-determination when it comes to one's own fate.
As Emma works out just what her destiny dream means, and what kind of legacy she stands to leave as the youngest Wildflower of the family, Lloyd carefully shows readers that fate isn't something that is set in stone. Destinies are only the foundation of what one can do, and it's one's individual actions - as many of Emma's relatives learn along the way - that can ultimately influences the scope of said destiny.
Lloyd also beautifully emphasizes Emma's dawning recognition that sometimes, a destiny involves much more than a singular individual as well. Though Emma initially sets off to prove that she can be extraordinary in her efforts to save her town, she's quickly reminded that family and friendships have a role to play in one's fate as well. This is especially true as Lloyd delves into the histories of the women that have come before Emma, and as Emma makes two unlikely new friends in the form of Earl Chance and Waverly Valentine.
It's her willingness to embrace their friendships that helps her get the key to where she needs to be. It's a worthwhile reminder for younger readers who may be struggling with the idea of reaching out for help in tough situations like Emma's, and Lloyd's gentle nudges toward valuing friendship toward personal end goals (and the wonderful end result of of such actions), help emphasis that it's okay to do so.
Outside of Emma's personal journey, it's worth mentioning that Lloyd's story is resplendent with the magical details that have become her literary trademark. Blackbird Hollow is surrounded by otherworldly touches and details, including a magical drink named Boneyard Brew, and flowers that help Emma connect with her past. Lloyd's exquisite world-building is not only a testament to her imagination, but a beautiful reminder of the magic that can be found in our every day lives, regardless of whether we live in Blackbird Hollow or not.
Of special note: Like her previous novel, Lloyd does an exceptional job of incorporating adult issues throughout ...Extraordinary, including trauma, losing family members and the overarching idea that individuals should be allowed to develop at their own pace.
The scenes involving lost relatives may be tough for younger readers to absorb, but Lloyd's overarching message that loved ones will never leave will likely be absorbed and appreciated.
Younger readers will absolutely love Emma's friendships with Cody Belle and Earl Chance, their constant drinks of Boneyard Brew, and the extraordinary paths that each of Emma's female relatives have taken. Older readers will likely also appreciate all of the above, but also the magical, marvelous flowers and Telling Vines of Blackbird Hollow, which help the memories of loved ones stay with us, long after they're no long with us.
Highly recommend for all readers, particularly for those who enjoy magical realism. Natalie Lloyd has a gift for creating characters, families and histories that will find their way deeply into a reader's heart, and The Key to Extraordinary will stay with readers long after a person has finished reading.