The Butterfly Heart by Paula Leyden

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The Butterfly Heart by Paula Leyden

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Category: Confident Readers
Rating: 5/5
Reviewer: Mary Esther Judy
Reviewed by Mary Esther Judy
Summary: Handling difficult subject matter while combining the directness and clarity of a child's worldview, The Butterfly Heart paints a picture that is heartfelt, revealing and seamless. With both humour and insight, you'll want to return to this one again and again.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 240 Date: March 2011
Publisher: Walker Books
External links: Author's website
ISBN: 978-1406327922

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'The Butterfly Heart' takes place in Zambia, the beautiful 'butterfly heart' of Africa. The story is told through two voices: Bul-Boo, a young girl who lives with her family and twin sister Madillo, and Ifwafwa, the Snake Man. He is old and wise and has the unique ability to communicate with snakes. The twins' lovely and gentle friend Winifred is in trouble. Her father has died, and his brother has arranged for her to marry his friend, a man old enough to be Winifred's grandfather. Winifred seems resigned to her fate, but Bul-Boo is determined to do something, and in desperation, the twins turn to Ifwafwa.

Leyden has drawn attention to the issue and tragedy of child marriage in Africa, while simultaneously blending the refreshing directness of a child's worldview. The language, story structure and characterisation are simple and very clear. Leyden uses the twins Bul-Boo and Madillo to demonstrate how human nature can divide in a crisis. Bul-Boo is practical and pragmatic, while her twin Madillo is more superstitious and mysterious. Together, the two girls' dialogue ebbs and flows to create a duet that will make you laugh and cry. Ifwafwa, the mysterious snake man understands the placement of old traditions in society. But he also is in direct conflict with them, as he tries to determine their application in protecting the young, the new and if they how they have any place in the application of justice and right. It is Ifwafwa's voice that exposes this part of the story; of a land where the old traditional ways struggle to find combine and find peace with the contemporary.

All the while, 'The Butterfly Heart' never becomes burdensome. While the story deals with difficult, even impossible circumstances, it is not at all didactic or heavy-going. The drawing of the storyline is seamless. Leyden paints a picture of the textural beauty of Africa, and the richness of the people who inhabit it. The descriptive quality is exquisite without being overly laboured. With genuine humour and warmth throughout, 'The Butterfly Heart' compels the reader gently and quietly forward to a very satisfying ending. It is, quite simply, beautiful. A book to be loved and pondered over with tenderness.

If this book appeals then we think that you might appreciate My Name is Rose by Sally Grindley and The Sleeping Baobab Tree by Paula Leyden.

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Buy The Butterfly Heart by Paula Leyden at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy The Butterfly Heart by Paula Leyden at


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