Published by: Nosy Crow, 7th April, 2022
Publishing on 7th April is this third fabulous novel from Nizrana Farook. Following on from The Girl Who Stole An Elephant and The Boy Who Met a Whale, this is probably my favourite of the three - and I love them all - due to its fast pace, rich setting and satisfying resolution.
Selvi enjoys spending her days alone, climbing the mountains of her island home, Serendib, often accompanied by Lokka, a wild leopard. But when she stumbles across an illegal poaching ring, who are determined to ensnare Lokka for his extraordinary coat, Selvi must act fast if she wants to save her beloved friend.
Struggling alone, Selvi begins to open up to her classmates. Soon she's surrounded by children who want to help. But can they get to Lokka in time and who is really responsible for his capture?
This is the second animal adventure novel I've read this month and they are quickly becoming one my favourite genres. Just like in The Lost Whale by Hannah Gold and Levi Pinfold, The Girl Who Lost a Leopard focuses on a child's extraordinary bond with a beautiful wild creature and explores how that bond helps them deal with their internal struggles. However, whereas the pace of The Lost Whale bobs along like the tide, building to a brilliant and tense dramatic climax in the same way a whale breaches the surface of the ocean, this novel is pacier from the off, the short chapters often ending in tense cliff-hanger endings that had me gripped.
The connecting link between all of Nizrana Farook's novels is the setting. The fictional island of Serendib, part of Sri Lanka, hosts all three stories and yet each time we are exposed to a completely different part of the island- the city, the coast and now the jungle covered mountains- making each one feel fresh and different. The plot has more twists and turns than a mountain path and the twist at the end is particularly brilliant. Selvi proves herself to be another strong and determined female lead but I also love her vulnerability and her burgeoning friendships prove particularly touching.
As with The Lost Whale, the novel emcompasses a serious ecological message without being didactic and the discussion Selvi has with her teacher and classmates about poaching is one of my favourite scenes in the book. There's also themes of friendship, family, loyalty, morality, made all the more beautiful by Lokka's blazing presence. It's heartwarming, nail-biting but, best of all, empowering and I can't wait to see it on the shelves in April.
A big thanks to Netgalley and Nosy Crow for allowing me a review copy. The Girl Who Lost a Leopard is now available to pre-order.