The Butterfly Heart by Paula Leyden is a tale set in Zambia and is told through the voices of a young girl and an old man who has a way with snakes. The story contains folk tales and legends from Zambia, humour and sadness, old meeting new. It touches on, among other things, the issue of child marriage.

Bul-Boo and Madillo are worried about their friend Winifred, who has lost her gentle smile and no longer puts up her hand in class. Then the twins discover her secret: she is to be married off to her uncle’s friend, who drinks heavily and is old enough to be her grandfather. While Winifred has become resigned to her fate, her friends are determined to put a stop to the marriage. But what can they do? They ask the advice of Ifwafwa, the snake man, who promises to think about the problem. Ifwafwa is wise and has a gift with snakes, but he does not like to hurry and Bul-Boo becomes impatient. Will he be too late to save their friend?

The Butterfly Heart was published in 2011 by Walker Books and has been endorsed by Amnesty International. On March 20th 2012 it was shortlisted for the CBI Childrens Book of the Year Award.

The Study Guide to accompany this novel has been developed by Orla Mackey, in St. John’s School in Kilkenny, who used the novel in a “One Book Project” with her 5th class. It includes chapter-by-chapter questions, clozes activities, fact sheets, images, wordsearch, words in Bemba (a language from Zambia), book review and much more.

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More information on the book, the author and the school in Kilkenny that used the book can be found on The Butterfly Heart website.