The Map of Leaves

The Map of Leaves

By Author / Illustrator

Yarrow Townsend



Age range(s)



Chicken House Ltd




Paperback / softback




Orla has lived on her own since Ma died, with only her beloved garden for company. When sickness comes and nature is blamed, Orla knows she must find a cure. Armed with her mother's book of plants and remedies, she steals away on a river boat with two other stowaways, Idris and Ariana. Soon the trio must navigate the rapids of the Inkwater to a poisonous place from which they may never return...

Set in a world where plants talk, friendship is hard-won and adventure is around the bend of every river... The debut novel from an astonishingly talented new writer; a wild rapids-ride of a story, suffused at every turn with authentic details of the natural world.

'Townsend has crafted an uncannily rich and tactile atmosphere, grounding the reader in the setting so successfully that I could almost feel the river mist settling in my hair.' Sarah Driver. 'Just finished this breathless marvel and there's so much to love about it. Wild and imaginative storytelling, it introduces us to talking oaks, poisonous rock and a central character with a lot to prove.' Fleur Hitchcock. 



Yarrow Townsend's debut The Map of Leaves is an ingeniously relatable and thrilling adventure story intertwined with a wealth of natural facts. Children battling against the odds to find the cure nature so desperately needs provides the perfect hook for an important, unique adventure story.

Orla lives in the small village of Thorn Creek with her horse and her beloved mother's garden, which she solely tends following the recent loss of her Ma. But, when a deadly illness hits the village, all plants, including Ma's garden, are blamed and must be extinguished. Orla knows the only way to save the garden is to find a cure. Equipped with her mother's book of botanical knowledge, she hides in a Hauler's boat to start her adventures where she is joined by Idris and Adriana. The three children must travel the treacherous Inkwater River, overcome death-defying obstacles and visit infected, desolate places to find the cure. With many twists and heart stopping turns along the way, will the three discover the vital cure and survive to see Thorn Creek again?

The Map of Leaves provides many great avenues and topics to explore in class, the most obvious being the science of plants and botanical links this story offers at the start of each chapter. The story provides a brilliant hook to explore how life-saving medicines come from the plants right outside of our classroom windows. As well as exploring habitats at risk, ways to save plants and our planet. I loved the subtle message throughout the story that, for those who listen, plants are calling for us all to get out there and find our own adventures, just like Orla. There is huge comfort that the great out doors can bring to us all.

I cannot recommend this excellent adventure story enough. It is perfect for children aged nine years plus (Upper Key Stage 2). I know my class are going to love this adventure story and I just hope Yarrow has written another book by the time I finish it with them. As Yarrow so powerfully writes, it … 'may just hold the seeds to spark all kinds of new life'.

320 pages / Reviewed by Nathan Cox, teacher

Suggested Reading Age 9+


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