Northwood is a whimsical fantasy tale with hints of humour in the Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett vein of writing. The young heroine is Cecilia Undergarment, which is acknowledged in Chapter One as being a "slightly odd name" but is otherwise perfectly normal, except that she can talk to animals. Her family live in an extraordinary house (Mr Undergarment owns a balloon factory) in a small town with the a vista over the lake and Mr Jingle's Wild West Show and African Safari Park to the "mist-shrouded forest, and black-capped mountains of Northwood". No one who enters Northwood forest ever returns.
This is the setting for Cecilia's adventure. Along the way she rescues a neglected dog, which unfortunately leads her to Northwood where ferocious black lions roam. There are secrets in Northwood and Cecilia sets out to uncover them. It is a fabulous tale which the author readily admits "It depends on whether what I am telling you is true, or just a big fat farty fib".
This is a book which I think will quickly make it onto the read aloud lists for many classrooms around the country. It's setting is universal and I think it will also be taken up around the world. Its the sort of book I can easily picture as a movie (but that is probably thinking too far ahead). Highly recommended.