The Butterfly Heart – Paula Leyden

“My friend Winifred didn’t put her hand up today. Not
once. She hardly put her head up. I kept looking at her sideways, waiting. But
nothing. When the bell rang, she slipped out of the classroom as if she had
never been there.”

Bul-Boo is worried about her best friend. As the quieter
sibling in a set of twins Bul-boo doesn’t let her imagination get away with her
often and she wouldn’t just to conclusions about her friend. She knows
something is wrong. When confiding in her sister and her other friend, Fred,
they come up with the crazy idea of spirit possession. So Bul-Boo decides to
ask for help from her other friend, Ifwafwa, the Snake Man. Ifwafwa knows Winfred
and wants to help but he goes about it slowly but surely, but can he help
before it gets too late?

The Butterfly Heart wasn’t something I usually would have
picked up but with beautiful writing, a simplistic way of looking at terrible
situations and life lessons intwined into the story Im very glad I did read it.
The story is a difficult one… this book is aimed at
around the 12 age range, but deals with some hard issues. I found the way these
issues came about and how they were dealt with were very simplistic but did not
make the difficulty of the situation any better. I think the story would have
been terrifying had it not been told in the way it was and that really makes
this book stand out.
I don’t want to go into much detail but basically,
Bul-Boo is right, there’s something wrong with Winifred, and this is something
very bad. This is a story that really opens your eyes to stuff that happens
around the world and makes you see things you probably wouldn’t have seen
before. Its set in Zambia, which is where the book gets its name from, I liked
that part of the book a lot. I’m sucker for titles which are a little ambiguous
but get explained through the story!
The characters are really interesting. The narration is
split between Bul-Boo and Ifwafwa so you kind of get both an adults and a
childs take on the events which helps a lot in understanding a few things, but
is a bit odd for a story aimed at this age. I liked that Ifwafwa was obviously
a very good friend to everyone, children alike and that he had a consciounce
and his own story going on too… Ifwafwa was probably my favourite character of
the book because of his amazing attitude and his total un-selfishness. He makes
it his life using his gift with snakes to help people and he was amazing.
Bul-Boo was also an amazing character but carried with
her a lot of childhood innocence I think. This wasn’t necessarily a bad thing
because Bul-Boos actions could show and teach things to kids reading this book
that they otherwise would have glossed over. She was a wonderful character.
I really did enjoy this book. Ifs not hard to understand
why Amnesty Intational endorsed it as it brings up some things that are shushed
up and not “meant” to be talked about. I really would love to see this one read
in schools as a part of world literature teaching.
The Butterfly Heart is a truly beautifully written book
which teaches you things about the world we live in. It tackles a hard subject
with an air of innocence which softens the harshness of the situation so that
you are not completely crushed by it but you are left thinking about it for a
long time after reading. I would recommend this one to young teens, older teens
and adults alike.
The Butterfly Heart is Paula Leyden’s first novel. It was
published in March 2011 by Walker Books. My copy was received in exchange for
an honest review. 


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