No Ordinary Story!

There are authors whose writing is ordinary and those whose ability to tell a story is simply extraordinary. I am happy to say that Natalie Lloyd’s offering, The Key to Extraordinary, is an example of the latter. From the first page to the last, readers will love the community and scenery Lloyd has created for her multilayered, entertaining protagonist, Emma. She lives with her Granny Blue, a gruff-on-the-outside character with ties to country music and boxing, and her kind and talented baking brother, Topher. Their home, with living space on top, has their bakery, the Boneyard Cafe, on the bottom, named fittingly.  Behind it is the town cemetery, where the backs of necks are often lightly touched and etherial songs can be heard.

Emma is a girl struggling with her “big empty”, a hole inside her left by the death of her mother. Before her passing, mama tells Emma that she will soon have her Destiny Dream. As with each previous girl in the family, the dream will reveal the dreamer’s special talent. Mama also gives her a well-worn book, a diary of sorts, with entries from each female relative. Reading the tellings of suffragettes to folktale singers, Emma is amazed and inspired by their extraordinary abilities and contributions. When her own dream happens, Emma, together with her old friend Cody Belle and her new non-verbal friend, Earl,  begins a quest that she believes will fulfill her destiny: to save the Boneyard Cafe and cemetery from a greedy developer by finding a long-missing treasure. It is Emma’s chance to be extraordinary. The tale is complex yet easily followed, with colorful characters full of strong voice, settings that come vibrantly to life and a story line packed with twists and turns. Part adventure, part mystery with a smattering of magic and tie-ins to History, this unique and satisfying tale will entice readers to become part of Emma’s extraordinary world and, maybe, develop a whole new appreciation for both flowers and hot cocoa!

By Natalie Lloyd

Copyright 2016

Accelerated Reader, Level 4.7

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So Sweet You Could Get a Cavity!

Marion Dane Bauer has written literally dozens of books for all ages, but I think I like the animal stories she writes for intermediate readers best. Probably not a surprise coming from me. Filled with sweet characters and messages, Bauer’s free verse narrative is a quick and darling tale. Patches, a calico cat, is looking for a special place. She already has a home and a girl who loves her, but feeling driven, she takes advantage of a loose screen and follows her instinct to find that place. After experiencing confusion, danger and hunger, Patches feels certain her special place is, ironically, in a yard occupied by a dog.  Gus is not any dog. He’s equally foul-tempered and foul-smelling and is feared by local residents, both animals and people. Despite his reputation, Patches gives in to hunger and enters Gus’ yard, settles in and finally understands why she needs a special place. She gives birth to three kittens and, aftter awhile Gus becomes their protector. But Patches now has to find her way home and deal with Gus’ attempt to keep Patches and her kittens all for himself. The supporting cast of neighborhood animals, from mice to squirrels, are as cute as can be, offering their skills and wisdom.  The humans play minor roles and that’s just how it should be. The animals in this story teach us humans about kindness, lonliness and love. What could be sweeter? Well, maybe a cup of hot chocolate, a blanket and this book.

By Marion Dane Bauer
Acclerated Reader Level 4.7
Copyright 2017

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