I might be the only librarian on the planet who did not enjoy Natalie Lloyd's A Snicker of Magic, so I didn't have high hopes for her newest book The Key to Extraordinary. I'm glad I fought against my instincts and gave it a try because I liked it very much.
Every woman in Emma's family had a dream which revealed their destiny. Some were spies, some musicians, and some were great leaders. Emma's destiny dream leads her on a treasure hunt through the local graveyard to save her special town which is being threatened by a selfish businessman. Located in the hills of Tennessee, her town is like something out of a dream. It has enchanted flowers that carry whispers of voices from the past, haunted graveyards with singing ghosts, rose petal rain drops and many more ethereal elements. It also, of course, has a local cafe were all of the eccentric characters gather to enjoy a cup of magical hot chocolate.
I really enjoyed the mystery part of the story and the quirky characters (especially the adventurous Emma and her motorcycle riding ex-boxer grandmother), but just like Lloyd's first book, the strong theme of magic was just a bit too much for me. The flowers start to sing and nobody seems to find it the least bit strange. Perhaps I'm just not whimsical enough for a book where anything goes! I'll have to work on that before her next novel. Grades 4 and up
This is one that I think most young boys will really like. It's a new version of books told in journal form and I dare say I might like it a bit more than Wimpy Kid because it's totally appropriate for younger children. The Brilliant World of Tom Gates by L. Pichon is, in a word, brilliant! My 10 year-old son had an opportunity to review this book for a fabulous website called litpik (www.litpik.com). It's a terrific site where students read and review new books (they can even get the books for free). I think his words perfectly explain my thoughts. This is his review:
In The Brilliant World of Tom Gates, Tom has three hobbies:
1. annoying Delia (his sister)
2. being in a band (Dog Zombies)
3. eating caramel wafers
Tom has a lot of things in his life that bug him. He gets stuck sitting next to annoying Marcus Meldrew and way too close to his teacher Mr. Fullerman. His sister drives him crazy and his Dad dresses like a homeless man when he picks him up from the bus stop. Tom's teachers give him too much homework, but he always finds a creative way to get out of doing it. Also, he is totally in love with a girl named Amy and if he could just score tickets to his favorite band's concert, he's sure Amy will like him back (because of course they will invite him on stage to sing their final song). Tom's imagination helps him all throughout the story. Everything that can go wrong in Tom's life usually does like a terrible camping vacation with his family, an interesting class trip or what happens when he finally does get tickets to see Dude 3. Somehow Tom always manages to find a way to come out on top. This story is told in journal form with doodles and pictures on every page that makes this story really easy to read.
I really liked this book. I laughed out loud so many times. Tom's drawings are hilarious, and I liked the story being told with so many doodles. I think it made it much easier to read. I also liked that Tom was always trying to find a funny excuse for not doing his work, but his teachers still really liked him. He wasn't disrespectful or rude, just funny. There were so many great parts like the fire drill, the choir practice, and the class assembly. I never knew what was coming next, but I knew it would make me laugh. Also, one thing that was great was that I could relate to all of the things Tom goes through. All kids try to get out of homework!
Thanks Wyatt for the review! Grades 3 and up
As soon as I saw the cover of this book I picked it up without bothering to read the jacket. I tend to LOVE scary books for young adults because they aren't especially violent or gory. I'm a big Mary Downing Hahn and Willow Davis Roberts fan. Is "creepy" a genre? If it is, it's my favorite!
In The Haunting of Sunshine Girl, Sunshine is a 16 year-old girl who recently moves to Washington with her adoptive mother, Kat. As soon as she arrives, she knows something is wrong in her new house. She hears a child's laughter and footprints and her room is rearranged each day after school. It's clear to Sunshine that her house is haunted, but besides her harmless ghost, there seems to be another scarier presence that puts her mother in danger. With the help of her new friend Nolan, Sunshine must discover the truth behind what lurks in her house but the truth is a bigger surprise than she ever thought possible.
I finished this book in one sitting because I knew Sunshine was somehow extraordinary and connected to these spirits but I couldn't solve the mystery on my own. I didn't find it to be predictable at all and was surprised by the big reveal. One of the best features of this book is that Sunshine is the one narrating the story and she is a very funny girl. Her humor helps to offset the scary parts of the novel.
I would love to recommend this to my elementary students but I think it might be just a bit to intense. I'd have to say Grade 6 and up.