Northwood by Brian Falkner (Walker Books)
When Rocky the Samoyd tells Cecilia Undergarment that he is starving to death, Cecilia can only do one thing - save him. It requires subterfuge, daring and innovative thinking - talents Cecilia can draw upon easily. She doesn't expect it will lead to her getting lost in the dark forest of Northwood though. The same forest her doting parents had always told her never to go near. The same forest where ferocious black lions roam. How will she get out and what else does she find in that dark forest...
Brian Falkner has tried a different style from the rest of his books. Firstly, he uses the third person omniscient (universal) - narrator talking to the reader, and secondly, his main character is female. Thirdly, it is also a fantasy story whereas his others have had a science fiction or contemporary feel. But like most of his characters Cecilia does have a special talent - the ability to talk to animals. The story is about the little guy (in this case Cecilia) overcoming the odds - she problem solves how to get out of the forest; listening to her intuition on how to do it.
I thoroughly enjoyed this story and girls 8-12 years old will do also. I can imagine this book having universal appeal. It will be for sale in New Zealand, Australia, America and England (and I am sure many other countries). I'm really proud of how successful Brian Falkner has been and he deserves to be - he's put the miles in. He spends most of his year touring schools and he's so good at giving talks he's booked up months in advance in Australia and New Zealand (and probably America too).
The book is also illustrated with Donovan Bixley's illustrations and they're perfect for the story. They look slightly sinister helping to build the spookiness of the Northwood Forest but he also draws very likeable characters. Donovan's illustrated over 50 children's books and he's a real star (you've got to see him in person - he wears a tophat for the occasion and he puts on a real funny show for the kids). We call him the 'Talented Mr Bixley'.
ISBN: 978-1-921529-80-1 RRP $22.99