THE KEY TO EXTRAORDINARY – Natalie Lloyd

 Before I get into the review of another Battle of the Books selections, I want to ask you to please donate to my niece’s elementary school. It’s a rural public school in North Carolina and many students have little support at home and are not encouraged to read. This Battle of the Books competition excites these children and nourishes a love of reading that will, hopefully, last a lifetime. If you’d like to donate, please click here. 

THE KEY TO EXTRAORDINARY by Natalie Lloyd is something quite magical and special and so is its heroine, Emma Pearl Casey.  This story grabbed my hand and my heart like a friend you never want to say goodbye to.

Emma and her older brother Topher have been touched by heartbreak and loss, and how Lloyd handles the darkness of their sadness is nothing short of magic.  She gives it a name, the Big Empty, and it breaks my heart.  She never knew her father and her mother has died by the start of the story.  She lives with Granny Blue and gives tours to the famously haunted cemetery.  Her family owns Boneyard Cafe and much like the rest of Blackbird Hollow, they are struggling.

But Blackbird Hollow is magic.  And so are the women in Emma’s family.  Their lives are documented in a the Book of Days.

“Since before the Revolutionary War, every woman in our family has dreamed of a field of blue flowers.  We’ve kept a record of it since Ingrid Noble.  And in that field, they always see… a clue.  A clue to their extraordinary destiny.”

“We call the women in our family the Wildflowers.  Because no matter the circumstance, and no matter where the wind carried them, they bloomed, bold and bright.”

But what is Emma’s destiny?  She feels the dream is coming just as sure as she feels the ghosts on the breeze.  When the dream finally comes, Emma is confused.  What could the key mean?

And then she realizes her destiny – she is to find the Conductor’s treasure and save her family and cafe.

The Conductor’s treasure is a legend dating back to before the Civil War, and many people within Blackbird Hollow have sought it out.  But only Emma had the dream.  She knows it is her destiny.

What happens next is the most magical and beautiful of treasure hunts as Emma and her BFF Cody Belle and new friend Earl Chance set out to find the key that will unlock the treasure that will save the town.  Emma does find the key and she does unlock a past full of treasures and love, and it the most unexpected and perfect of endings.

And the flowers… oh how I wish these flowers were real.  Keeping Susans.  Telling Vines.  Healing Blues.

I’ve been removed from children’s books for a bit, but this did have some HOLES vibes.  There is so much in this short children’s book to unpack, so I will leave you with Emma’s entry in the Book of Days.

She believed in magical things: buried treasure, skeleton keys, and Telling Vines.  She loved.

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