The Butterfly Heart and The Sleeping Baobab Tree are both published by Walker Books and endorsed by Amnesty International.

On  28th May 2012 The Butterfly Heart won the Eilis Dillon Award (CBI Book of the Year Award) for best first book! Absolutely delighted with that. And in 2014 The Sleeping Baobab Tree won the CBI Special Judges Award.

The CBI Eilis Dillon Award for a First Book


Both books are set in Zambia – and contain folk tales and legends from Zambia, humour and sadness, old meeting new.


Reviewers have had the following to say:

On The Sleeping Baobab Tree: Once again, Leyden manages to sweep us off our feet and transports us to an African landscape which fills the senses and enriches the heart. If you haven’t read either book, treat yourself to both and read them one after the other. You won’t be disappointed! Sadie Cramer

As with Leyden’s first book; ‘The Sleeping Baobab Tree’ is simply beautiful, and an absolute joy; a rare and wonderful gift. Mary Esther Judy on Fallen Star Stories

This enchanting tale is like Alexander McCall-Smith, but for kids. Sue Leonard, Irish Examiner 27 August 2011

This novel will transport many readers to somewhere they’ve never been before- Zambia. Epic book and examination of Africa’s past, present and future. A top pick of Children’s Laureate Siobhán Parkinson.   Aoife Murray, Children’s Books Ireland on the Moncrieff Show, Newstalk website

The Butterfly Heart tells a magical tale that is full of wisdom and wit. This is an incredibly touching story that respectfully speaks to tradition in a simple but powerful way. It is definitely one for the shelves of the young adults in your home. Karabo Kgoleng, City Press newspaper, South Africa

Paula Leyden is that rare thing a natural storyteller who conjures a rich magical-realist terrain in which sorcery and modernity coexist. Her Zambian childhood provides the material for her moving debut, The Butterfly Heart (Walker Books £5.99 ).  Mary Shine Thompson, Irish Times

You know how people are drawn to certain places and a lot of people are drawn to Africa. I’m not in fact particularly drawn to Africa but after reading this I might just go to Zambia. It is the most wonderful evocation of place that I think I’ve ever read in a book, and it is a very loving evocation.  Siobhán Parkinson, Children’s Laureate of Ireland and multi award winning author

It’s a brilliant story, very well told. It tackles extremely serious issues in a way that is not preachy, this is highly effective because we as readers are often desensitised by people shouting down at us. The perspective of the tale through a child’s eye is the triumph of this book. Their innocence endears us to them and makes the story all the more powerful.  Mwanabibi Sikamo, Uprooting the Pumpkin.

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.      Mary Esther Judy, in Inis and BookBag as well as on her blog  Fallen Star Storie

The author of this book shows in this debut work that she can spin a fine tale that would enthral young readers.

Indeed, this is a stirring, lyrical story from the butterfly heart of Africa. It will have appeal to the mainstream young reader and boost literacy in South Africa and in other parts of the continent.  Mpikeleni Duma, The Sowetan Newspaper

Ms Leyden’s writing is beautiful. Her descriptions are vivid, and I had little trouble seeing the different scenes in my head. I found myself fully engrossed in the story from the beginning to end. On the pages with insights and dialogue from the children’s characters I really believed I was reading the words and thoughts of children, and not an adult’s interpretation. In the hands of a less skilful writer the effort could have fallen flat.   Bwalya Chileya  The Zambian Economist and Seize the Moment blog

The adult wisdom and considered pace of Ifwafwa contrast well with that of eager Bul-Boo, while the interaction between Bul-Boo and her dizzy twin sister Madillo is well-observed and finely-drawn. Sister Leonisa, the children’s teacher, is hilarious; in fact throughout the novel, Paula Leyden successfully uses opportunities for humour to lighten what might otherwise be an overly dark tale. The setting is vivid, with wonderful detail of life in rural Zambia, which is clearly familiar to her.  Jane Mitchell, award winning author

The writing in this book is utterly beautiful. I found the story just flowed off the pages like a winding, lazy, river. It is one of the quiet books, where everything happens in a quiet way but produces immense results, leaving you feeling satisfied that everything has been dealt with. Vivienne da Costa Editor of the Serendipity Blog

Available in all good bookshops as well as online in the following ways

21 responses to “Home

  1. I was privileged to be there at the gestation of The Butterfly Heart and am delighted that the work is now so well received. There is hard-won wisdom in every page delivered with a lightness of touch which is more effective than the most earnest preaching.

  2. hi,i readed your novel in school in st johns it really good 🙂

  3. hi paula i read the butterfly heart in school in st johns and i thought it was really interesting i especially loved the character Bul Boo.

  4. Is the book too challenging for 3rd and 4th class? Looks fantastic!

    • Hi Aideen
      Thanks for that!
      I’ll send you on an email with some thoughts – but I know that it has been done in Fourth Class (and I have visited a Fourth Class with it) and in fact Walker Books have it in the 9-12 age band, so for both it should be no bother.

  5. hi could you tell me where i could get an audio version of the butterfly heart

    • Hi Sarragh
      As far as I know it is not yet available on Audio but I will get hold of the publishers and double check this and get back to you? Would be great if it was.
      Thanks, Paula

  6. Hi Paula,
    I’m about to head over to Amazon to find your book. I’d be pleased if you’d take a look at the prologue to Harmattan, which is set in Niger.
    Best regards,
    Gavin Weston

    • Have done that Gavin, and am about to buy it. Looks fascinating, the prologue builds up a lot of tension. Also followed the link to Forward, which I had come across before, I like their approach.

  7. Wendy Tyler Green

    Hi Paula did you go to Lusaka Convent ? The old girls have been looking for you and your sister Karen , please make contact with us , love Wendy Tyler

    • I did indeed Wendy – the Dominican Convent is what I assume you’re talking about? Maybe drop me a line in an email? Thanks Paula

    • Fantastic news about The Butterfly Heart, Paula! Congratulations!

      FORWARD UK & Myrmidon Books are holding a London launch of Harmattan on 11th October to mark International Day of the Girl. If you happen to be around, do please join us. (Girls Not Brides and World Vision will also be in attendance.) Details re. venue soon.

      I shall tweet a congratulations too! J

      Gavin Weston

  8. Thanks Gavin, appreciate it! Hope all going well with Harmattan?

    • Going okay, thanks, Paula. Plugging away and it’s been nominated for a couple of things too. Trying to concentrate on the next novel now – Tin Town.

      Plugged your book on Twitter a couple of times. J



  9. You’re very good, thank you. Good luck with the shortlistings, and a great title for the next one!

  10. Hi Paula,
    It was lovely to meet you yesterday and Iam delighted to find out more about your books. What great reviews! I’ll look forward to reading them.
    Best wishes,

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