Twelve-year-old Alyssa Norris has been living through very tough times in her life; losing her parents at age seven, her aunt at age nine, and her uncle becoming irresponsible and cruel towards her and her cousin. One day, two incredible events happen to Alyssa: she has mysteriously received the power to make animals speak English to her, and she has a godfather whom she wished she got to live with. Alyssa runs away from home, so that she could take a train down to where her godfather lives. On her way, a zoo truck stops and a monkey asks her where she’s going. But then the driver invites Alyssa to come to Africa and help a family in need. He tells her that the family may starve and that there was nobody else available for them, which causes her to come along.
When Alyssa arrives in Africa, she meets the family and promises to take care of them. But early the next morning, the zoo animals tell her that she needs to help them with survival skills. Alyssa helps them all day, but when she brings the family’s water back later that day, they fire her and leave. That leaves her stuck with the zoo animals. She offers them a tour of the savannahs of Tanzania, but then an African wizard informs her that she must go to the Congo to retrieve a charmed necklace, which will sense suspicion of the zoo truck driver.
I may make the talking animals more minor, since I'm not done and the story will probably be very long. But I can't cut them out. There will be lots of serious themes, strong emotions, some cartoon violence, and intensity though. It would probably be rated PG if it were a movie. Plus many kids read up lately. There are probably 9-10-year-olds reading upper MG and lower YA books
I asked on Yahoo Answers and two people said kids 9-12 wouldn't read it. Someone even said that it sounded too much like The Wild Thornberries. I didn't used to get offended by that, but I am starting to now. Eliza is not an orphan who is abused by her uncle, she never discovers that she has had a godfather, and she doesn't ever use something that raises suspicion. If you read the 1st 4 chapters at worthyofpublishing.com under the children's category, it's NOTHING like the Wild Thornberries. The uncle abuses them because he drinks a lot (but never in front of Alyssa or her cousin). No one ever drank in The Wild Thornberries. Alyssa also sneaks out at night to see her best friend. Now with these "extra" descriptions, would any kids 9-12 read this book?