Jump to ratings and reviews
Rate this book

The Key to Extraordinary

Rate this book
Everyone in Emma's family is special. Her ancestors include Revolutionary War spies, brilliant scientists, and famous musicians--every single one of which learned of their extraordinary destiny through a dream.

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 Extraordinary cements her status as one of the most original voices writing for children today.

240 pages, Hardcover

First published February 23, 2016

Loading interface...
Loading interface...

About the author

Natalie Lloyd

12 books429 followers

Ratings & Reviews

What do you think?
Rate this book

Friends & Following

Create a free account to discover what your friends think of this book!

Community Reviews

5 stars
1,933 (42%)
4 stars
1,599 (34%)
3 stars
788 (17%)
2 stars
177 (3%)
1 star
74 (1%)
Displaying 1 - 30 of 708 reviews
Profile Image for Jeff Zentner.
Author 9 books2,232 followers
July 24, 2015
I thought it would be difficult for Natalie Lloyd to top A SNICKER OF MAGIC, but with THE KEY TO EXTRAORDINARY, she does so with such ease that I'm starting to wonder if she's as possessed of such magic as the characters she writes about.

Everything I loved about SNICKER was present in even greater and sharper abundance. Vividly drawn, lovable characters. A vibrant, magical setting. Gorgeous, lyrical prose. A story that kept me turning pages until there were no more to turn.

And I would not hesitate to recommend this book to adults. Here, as with SNICKER, Lloyd makes her adult characters fully formed and fully realized, and acknowledges through them that life is both aggregated joys and aggregated sadnesses. And after the passage of years, we're filled with both.

But this book will add to the aggregated joys of your life.
Profile Image for mary liz.
213 reviews18 followers
July 14, 2017
If I could, I would give this book a thousand stars.

It's the kind of story that tucks itself into your heart. The kind that you never, ever forget.

Every day you live is a day for dreaming. Every day is a day for adventuring. And every day is for sharing with people you love, because love's all that lasts. It's the only thing we carry out of this world. It connects us all, in the end.
Profile Image for Sarah Levy.
135 reviews10 followers
March 21, 2016
Set in a small, spooky southern town, this magical story is hard to put down! I instantly fell for Emma & Grandma Blue. I yearn to visit the Boneyard Cafe, go on Emma's tour, and then enjoy a Boneyard Brew and lavender-peach muffin!! This novel sucked me in from the beginning & I loved every second of it!
Profile Image for Kate Willis.
Author 19 books509 followers
March 1, 2022
This beautiful, beautiful book left tears in my eyes and a feeling of home in my heart. I soaked in every gorgeous word, every "spooky" encounter, every message of treasure and destiny and love. ❤️

I kept reading over some passages because they were so beautifully written, and part of me wants to journal some of the best quotes. The characters were very sweet and quirky, and I would like a Grandma that cool and tough, please. Also, I'm going to need my own "kitchen ghost". 😂😂

Speaking of ghosts... They play a big role in this story but it's not dark or terrifying in the least. Instead it's more like a metaphor for the ancient, enduring memory of small towns and the comforting feeling of having your history near. I loved it.

One of the best portrayals of grief and coming of age I've ever read.

CW: death, graveyards, ghosts. Mentions of the Civil War and slavery. A boy has a near-death experience.

Absolutely recommended. ❤️
Profile Image for Emily.
423 reviews55 followers
August 27, 2017
Beautifully sweet story set in a slightly magical little town. I loved the overall message and theme about
A sweet, whimsical feeling permeated the story, and enveloped as I read. It was a little weird and wrinkly in the beginning, but came together around the second third of the book. I also really liked that it was one of the few newer contemporary books for middle graders that I've read of late that didn't slip in any questionable language or content (unless you count the ghost talk).
Profile Image for Michelle (driftingsong).
608 reviews37 followers
January 8, 2022
I did not expect to love this as much as I did when I started. The themes are so simple yet beautiful, everything comes together perfectly, it leaves me with an odd little ache. If you're looking for a lovely, short middle grade book than please check this one out! Without a doubt I will be checking out more of Natalie Lloyd's work!
Profile Image for Mary.
2,710 reviews11 followers
November 6, 2016
This is a homespun history mystery middle grade novel with a big dollop of magical realism. Similar to Lloyd’s previous novel, A Snicker of Magic, this story is filled with quirky characters and melancholy sweetness. Although young history buffs will easily make the Conductor – Civil War connection, the treasure hunt through the graveyard is compelling. Overall, an evocative narrative with gentle ghosts, tender friendships, and a great message that love will always win the day.
Profile Image for Cat Carstairs.
241 reviews91 followers
April 1, 2020
"For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also."

I'm surprised that the first time I rated this on Goodreads I only rated it 4 stars. I decided to give it a re-read just for the heck of it, and now I realize that The Key to Extraordinary deserves 5 shining stars!

I'm so happy that I chose to pick this one back up again, because it easily earned a spot on my favorites shelf. In this book, we follow a young girl named Emma, who comes from a family of really extraordinary people. Her family keeps a record book, called the Book of Days, of all these people and all the amazing things they did. What's so special about it is that everyone in Emma's family has what's called the Destiny Dream- a dream that shows them a sign of what will be their extraordinary destiny.

Emma wants to have her Destiny Dream more than anything, so that she will be able to make her mother's last wish come true. But Blackbird Hollow, the small Tennessee town where she lives, is being threatened by a big-city rich dude who wants to demolish the historic land for his own benefit. Emma is determined to find a legendary ancient treasure in order to save her town, and her Destiny Dream may just have had a part in it all.

There are so many positive aspects of this book, it's really hard not to like it. The main character is enjoyable and fun, and has such a positive outlook on life that you'll find yourself smiling right along with her. Her loyalty to her friends is strong and uplifting. Her friends are everything best friends should be! I loved Emma's closest friend, Cody Belle, and I fell in love with the slight romantic interest of Earl Chance. There's hardly any "romance" in this book, but I still loved him as a character and the relationship he made with Emma.

The story, though I probably didn't do the summary justice, is captivating and keeps you on the edge of your seat. Natalie Lloyd's writing style is perfect- well, as close as anything can be to perfect. It's sweet and smooth, and makes you feel like you're eating your favorite ice cream on a sunny summer day. That being said, I ate it right up!

The way everything wrapped up at the end was so satisfying, it couldn't have been written any better. This book is a blessing to anyone who reads it, and it left me feeling lighthearted and jovial inside. My decision to re-read this is definitely not a decision I'll ever regret!
Profile Image for Kara.
618 reviews67 followers
December 5, 2016
Oh friends, y'all know how I gushed over Ms. Lloyd's first book, A Snicker of Magic, so you can imagine my excitement over anticipating this one! It did not disappoint. At all! :) I absolutely loved meeting Emma and Granny Blue and everyone in Blackbird Hollow. There is simply a poignancy and sweetness that infuses this story. Watching as Emma works through her emotions and searches to find her joy again spoke to my heart so truly, because that's what I've been doing this year since losing my own mother. It's not an easy road, to come back to happy after losing someone you love, and it affects everyone around you almost as much as it does you. I loved how this little town of quirky and awesome characters drew together through Emma's journey. She has so much to learn and so much to teach her friends. Every single character is wonderful! (Well, except for a couple. But they don't deserve to be named.) As I expected, Ms. Lloyd's writing is exceptional, which is only enhanced by the narrator's southern twang from the audiobook. I loved listening to this delightful story as much as I loved my actual reread after! Highly recommend if you enjoy magical adventures with gloriously quirky and lovable characters. :)
Profile Image for Emma.
285 reviews15 followers
Shelved as 'abandoned'
May 11, 2016
Sheesh! Is there a middle grade novel out there that ISN'T a grief book? I rolled my eyes as soon as I found out that the main character's mother was dead and after that I just couldn't get into it. It didn't help that I was also annoyed by everything having an official name name: Destiny Dream, Wildflowers, Club Pancake.... It was hard to keep straight. I read 50 pages and then put this down because the much more exciting and more anticipated The Rose and the Dagger by Renee Ahdieh came in at the library and I read that instead. When I came back to this, I couldn't even remember the main character's first name ... which shouldn't have been hard, since it's the same as my own. I tried reading again since there is a lot of buzz about this book for the Newbery, but given my rough start and dread at picking it back up again I made the executive decision to officially abandon it.
Profile Image for Kristen.
1,851 reviews30 followers
August 5, 2016
For most of the book, this was a solid 3-star story--and then I got to the end and the secret of the conductor was revealed. So. Awesome. And completely unexpected. So, I ended up liking this one just as much as A Snicker of Magic, even though it doesn't have quite the same level of magic. Maybe it's because I like the history woven in and the thought of flowers that allow lost loved ones to leave messages behind. If only.
Profile Image for Michele Knott.
3,687 reviews161 followers
October 19, 2015
Will write a longer review closer to publication date (Feb. 2016), but I will say Natalie Lloyd is back. So wonderful to read her words again.
Profile Image for Lovely Day.
712 reviews96 followers
Shelved as 'dnf'
December 31, 2021
DNF at 39%

Either it wasn’t engaging enough for me or i was just not in the mood for it….not sure🤷🏼‍♀️

The Narrator was good though!
Profile Image for Brenda.
860 reviews37 followers
April 25, 2016
Emma, Granny Blue and her older brother Topper live in the Boneyard Cafe, "perched on the edge of a famous cemetery" within the town of Blackwood Hollow. Emma provides tours at the cemetery and knows all the local stories and legends. While she is on one of her famous tours, her Uncle Peri and Aunt Gerta tell her about the tale of The Conductor, who hid his treasure somewhere within Blackwood Hollow, but will only reveal it to someone who has "good intentions and is pure of heart." The Boneyard Cafe is a special place for Emma, it holds all her memories of her mother and is the only home she's ever known. When Emma was ten, her mother gave her a family heirloom, The Book of Days. A special book filled with the stories, admonitions, newspaper clippings, trinkets and the "Destiny Dreams" of the women in their family. Emma's mother shared how each of the women had a dream of the "wondrous thing" they were going to accomplish in their life, with each dream beginning in a field of blue flowers. Emma believes her destiny is to find The Conductor's treasure and to save her beloved Boneyard Cafe from being sold. But, when Emma finally has her dream it's a confusing mess, and the only clue to her destiny seems to rest in a key.
The Key to Extraordinary has a lovely atmosphere , with it's small town feel seeped in memories, traditions, history, legends, ghosts and all the emotions that go with it. For Emma it is the feeling of the "Big Empty," a heavy aching feeling from the loss of the space that her mother filled in her heart. A feeling easy to relate to if you've ever lost a family member, friend or even a beloved pet. Emma and her friend Cody Belle are truly lovely girls and because of Emma having been teased about her cleft lip repair, she is able to see what new boy Earl needs is a friend. I loved how they were so inviting and reached out to welcome him into their circle. The Key to Extraordinary is also magical in the form of the Gypsy Roses blowing on the wind, talking vines and even in the Boneyard Brew sold at the cafe. With all the references to peach lavender muffins, cookies and fresh baked scones,it really made me want to do some baking or at least make a cup of hot chocolate. There were also so many beautiful quotes about love and loss, with my favorite being "Every life time, no matter how long it lasts, is a gift. And to love and be loved, even by one person during your lifetime...that is a treasure no one can take from you." Most of all though it's a story of love, loss and the connections that we make to the past, to our family and friends.
Profile Image for Amy B.
253 reviews18 followers
June 24, 2016
Natalie Lloyd's writing is just so refreshing. And delightful. And delicious. And makes you use words you normally wouldn't use. ;)

I was thrilled to immerse myself once again in the unique world she's created, filled to the brim with magical realism, broken but mending families, character-full small towns, friendships, and quests. I love the family dynamics Lloyd creates, and was fully enthralled with the fields of blue flowers, the Talking Vines, the sparkling stardust, and Keeping Susans. There's just something so comforting about her stories.

Emma, Cody Belle and Earl were awesome. I do have a few critiques - I can't help it. I think, in terms of plot, this read like just one of this group of friend's adventures. Like there wasn't quite enough meat in it for me to really chew on. Maybe it was Lloyd's intention to keep it smaller (and more realistic probably) and that's fine, but for me, it perhaps could have used a little more danger (the bad guys, the flood, the ghosts) or a few more scenes that were larger and with higher stakes.

Only other critique I had was that Emma seemed to have too many epiphanies/realizations about what life is about for me to truly appreciate each and every one. But no biggie. :)

So, overall, a really well done book that was easy to read but with hardly a dull sentence. Great fleshed-out characters, enchanting magical flowers that I can still imagine, and a satisfying conclusion. The fact that I wanted MORE, I think, is only a compliment to the writing. :)
Profile Image for Beth.
2,935 reviews199 followers
April 20, 2016
This is the story of Emma Pearl Casey, a young girl with a magical and renown family history. Just as with those that came before her, Emma's destiny comes to her in a dream. But when that dream indicates that she must carry out an impossible task, find the treasure that's been hidden in Blackbird Hollow's cemetery for centuries, she doesn't know how she will ever succeed. If she doesn't though, her family's business and the entire town might find itself on the other end of a wrecking ball. If Emma doesn't find the treasure, she might lose the very place she calls home, as progress might win out over history and tradition.

I fully admit that it took me a bit longer to get into The Key to Extraordinary than it did A Snicker of Magic, but much of that had to do with where I was at the time I read it. I was finishing my last semester of grad school and was highly distracted. Even with the distractions, I could see this was another special story full of quirky, lovable characters and enchanting yet folksy prose. And I especially loved the surprise at the end, but that's all I'm saying because... NO SPOILERS! :)

Read my entire review on my blog.
Profile Image for Waffle.
288 reviews4 followers
November 7, 2017
The climax SEVERELY failed to deliver like I knew the treasure was the friends we made along the way but sheesh

Stories about the power of love work when they’re drawn from genuine human experience and connection. This story relies too heavily on gestures and nice sounding words and moments that just ring false. How am I supposed to believe that nobody WENT INTO THE TUNNEL THAT WAS RIGHT THERE THE WHOLE TIME??!?

Anyway, guess my tolerance for cotton candy ice cream was less this time and I hit my eye roll limit. I liked her first book a lot more when I listened to it. But I finished! And I didn’t actually hate it like it was mostly sweet and I liked the ghost aspect. MORE GHOSTS.

Or maybe I should just amble back to the Tupelo Landing books, which IMO are more developed, grounded, and witty.
Profile Image for AoF.
40 reviews12 followers
November 22, 2018
4 stars | Blog

“Often in our darkest days, in our hardest times, that's when we find our destiny.”

In her usual fashion, Natalie Lloyd charms readers with her lovely prose and quirky characters. The plot drew me in, and the rest of the book carried me along Emma's journey. It was a sweet story, and made me feel all warm and fuzzy on the inside. Would definitely recommend, especially if you liked A Snicker of Magic!
Profile Image for Lynn.
323 reviews14 followers
March 15, 2016
I really enjoyed this book. In fact, I actually underlined quotes which I hardly ever do AND I think I want to go back and re-read just so I can slowly savor the story (I might have rushed a bit because I was enjoying it so much). I think I would read a grocery list written by Natalie Lloyd at this point.

I was provided with an e-galley by the publisher and edelweiss. Thank you! I will definitely be purchasing this for my library.
Profile Image for Tara Warmerdam.
37 reviews16 followers
May 31, 2016
Loved this book! Such a fun read. I could easily visualize Grandma Blue, Emma, and of course the Boneyard Brew and peach lavender muffins. Emma is determined to fulfill her Destiny, as the other women in her family have done. When she dreams of a key, the mystery ensues as she plans to save her family home and the town (she dreams big!). I love how history is at work in this small town and Emma's story. Definitely magical!
Profile Image for Bethe.
6,043 reviews53 followers
June 4, 2016
5 stars. Bookaday #2. So many things to love in this book: well developed main and secondary characters, fun, lush vocab, sprinkling of magic, 2 dogs, muffins, best friends, treasure, chapter 15 with Granny Blue. Wisdom on love and grief and the potential to be extraordinary.
Profile Image for Samantha Fraenkel.
842 reviews26 followers
February 2, 2016
Natalie Lloyd writes the best books for kids. Her debut novel, A Snicker of Magic, knocked my socks off with its beautiful writing, quirky characters, and heart. The Key to Extraordinary is just as wonderful, if not better. Best 9-12 novel I've read this year.
Profile Image for Jeff Raymond.
3,092 reviews181 followers
Shelved as 'unfinished-reads'
January 9, 2016
This is getting a lot of really solid press, probably from the same who are really into more quiet, fantastical tales. I gave this roughly 70 pages and it was not connecting for me even a little bit, and so aside it goes. I'm looking for a little more oomph from the middle grade set these days.
Profile Image for Cathy.
487 reviews1 follower
August 18, 2018
I absolutely loved this book. I loved every single character and every single thing about the book. I loved the stories of all the "Wildflowers" and I loved the lesson learned. What a great, feel-good book for young people. Maybe older people too! Love, love, love!!
Profile Image for Cindy.
Author 4 books325 followers
August 4, 2019
I really enjoyed A SNICKER OF MAGIC, but I flat-out ADORED this one. Charming and poignant.

Update 7/2019: We listened to the audio of this as a family, and the narrator is fantastic!
Profile Image for Regan Parks.
105 reviews7 followers
October 18, 2017
Truman picked this for our mother/son book club (it's very exclusive, just him and I) and neither one of us cared enough to finish it. I quit around the halfway point.
Displaying 1 - 30 of 708 reviews

Can't find what you're looking for?

Get help and learn more about the design.