FeaturedMiddle Grade

The Most Important Thing in the World

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A duck with PTSD, a scaly invasive species, and a furry optimist set out on the quest of their lives.

There is so much to love here no matter the reader's age.


The blurb presents the concept of the book well, so I won't attempt it. Let me tell you what the blurb doesn't.


Emma may be confused about some things, but she knows her life has gone decidedly downhill as her owner grows into his teen years. She's gone from a cherished pet to the smelly box in the corner requiring food occasionally. Emma is no average pet, and she's not willing to be a victim in disgusting conditions any longer. Using her intelligence and well-timed luck, she escapes to the wild.


As her epic journey begins, she befriends two animals who join her quest. A duck named Crystal, who possesses an exuberant personality and loves giving hugs, and Mina. She's an iguana with a slightly sullen personality. But then, Mina's societal experience is different from Crystal's.


This story is an excellent blend of well-told tale, quirky comedy, and heartfelt fable. It's full of pitch-perfect onomatopoeia, adding a rich quality of sound to the written word. The "wilds" of Florida resound with the sounds of nature and humans.


The characters bring a diversity of species and concepts. Our intrepid trio of sojourners will encounter old friends and new, some pretending to be friends but are decidedly not, and others defying easy description. They'll be lied to, manipulated, threatened, and discriminated against. Mina is, after all, an "invasive species" and therefore has no place in society, according to some.


Despite their hardships, the girls travel happily. They also learn wonderful life lessons meeting such characters as Motlow, the alligator who was once the apex predator and is now a tourist attraction, or Quin, an armadillo with a Don-Quixote complex complete with his own Sancho Panza. Quin and his tortoise squire are positively face-palming, laugh-out-loud funny.


So many points of this story are stand-outs. Among those is the concept of a duck trying to teach a guinea pig to swim. As Crystal explains:


"It is perfectly simple. You just wade in until your backside floats, give one good shove, then you paddle your feet, and off you go."


Emma failed. Dramatically. Crystal's response?


"This time, just let your backside float, and try to make your feet bigger."


Even as the humor abounds, there are profound moments, too. The story of why the dragons disappeared was interesting in itself. It became more so as Mina's uncle and aunt presented their own unique takeaways from the tale.


Each new chapter is its own adventure, having much to offer. This is a great children's book, but it would also be a fun one for an adult to read to a child. Parents need not worry about Emma looking to find out who she truly is. That is not a metaphor for the "woke" crowd to insert themselves. A person can make of this story what they will. But there is no underlying manipulation. This stands as a wonderful children's tale. Period.

Reviewed by

I am an obsessive reviewer, having discovered several years ago that I have a passion for helping indie authors get their books discovered, and for helping prolific readers like me find great new voices. I run the gambit on genre, from romance to psycho-thriller and most everything in between.

A Guinea Pig Named Emmet

About the author

Kelly Sanford is a writer, traveller, and generally creative person. She has been published widely in magazines that range from Showboats International to Billboard. She is a Royal Palm Literary Awards Gold Medal winner. The Most Important Thing in the World is her debut novel. view profile

Published on November 18, 2022

60000 words

Genre: Middle Grade

Reviewed by