The Map of Leaves


Since Ma died, Orla has lived alone in a woodshed by the river. Her garden provides everything she needs. But when people begin to fall sick, Governor Atlas decrees that the plants are the cause and must be destroyed. Armed only with her mother’s book of remedies Orla sets out on a barge-boat to discover the truth and save her garden …

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Set in a world where plants talk, friendship is hard-won and adventure is around the bend of every river …

‘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

‘A striking new voice and a thrilling, beautiful, important book, full of characters I will never forget.’ NATASHA FARRANT

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…

  • 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
  • A gorgeous gifty book: a flapped paperback with illustration by Marie-Alice Harel

Orla is a lonely and troubled child who has lived on her own since her mother died when she fell ill with a mysterious disease. Orla doesn’t have any friends and has only her beloved garden for company. But when sickness comes and people blame the plants, Orla knows she must find a cure. Armed only with her mothers book of plants, she steals away on a riverboat with two other stowaways, Idris and Ariana. They battle through rapids and solve mysteries along the waybut when she and her new found friends are separated, Orla knows she must save her friends and find the cure before it is too late…    The Map of Leaves was a thrilling page turner, jam packed with mystery. It was ominous and sometimes scary and had me on the edge of my seat for most of it! It is a tale of adventure, mystery and making new friends. I especially liked how Orla (the main character) talks to the plants and trees and the author included the plant’s whispers. My favourite part was when the three children are on the boat and having to fend for themselves in the wild. This was the part that they all kind of became friends and started caring about each other. It was actually quite sad at times because lots of people Orla knew started getting sick. It kind of reminded me of the Covid pandemic in a way. It also reminded me of a book I once read called ‘The Island at the End of Everything’ which was also about a disease on a remote island. I would recommend this book to readers aged between 11 and 14. Alicia, Mostly Books Youth Ambassador

This book was amazing! It was so gripping, and the plot was so well crafted. Each of the characters were so different from each other and they all had different feelings about the journey and they all had a little something they could add to make the journey easier which I thought was really good. The book is quite complicated to explain! A girl called Orla Carson lives in a small village. She used to live with her ma, but she died a few years before of a terrible disease. Orla’s whole life is based on her plants, she can hear the plants speaking to her, and she speaks back. Her garden is full of plants. One day, Atlas, the highest praised man in the village came, telling the villagers that there was a terrible disease caused by plants. He told Orla to cut down her whole garden, and all livestock (including Orla’s horse) was taken to be checked for the illness. Orla would not cut down her garden and so in the evening, she snuck off on a boat to find the real root of the disease. Unfortunately, the boat Orla was going to sneak out on had another boy in it whose brother was ill. Orla and Idris had to find a cure together, which Orla was not very happy about. They find another girl on the way, Ariana, who was kidnapped by some haulers. Ariana, Idris, and Orla had to go on a long journey to find the cause of this awful disease, and to find a cure. This story definitely maintained my interest because there was so much happening. At the start of this story, we did not know much about Orla’s past and about her mother, but as the story progressed, we learnt about how her mother got ill, who her mother trusted and who she did not. My favourite character in this book is Ariana, because at the start of this story, Orla did not like her. Orla thought Ariana was privileged, and not very nice because of the big house she lived in and the clothes she wore. But as the story progressed and Orla was forced to go on a journey with her, Orla soon realises that she is an extraordinary person, who is clever and wants to help her friends. I would 100% recommend this book to all young readers, because it is so engaging and once you start reading it you can’t stop! Izzy, Mostly Books Youth Ambassador

The Map of Leaves is a book about 12-year-old Orla, an outsider and a girl who talks to plants. She goes on a dangerous journey to find out what is causing a deadly sickness that is killing both people and plants. Accompanying her are Idris, trying to save his brother, and Ariana, trying to escape being sent away by her evil uncle. Together, they go downstream in search of answers while having to avoid haulers who are trying to stop them. But will they find the answers that they need before everyone catches the fatal disease? And can they really trust anyone??     I thought that this book was slightly slow starting, but once I got into it, it was a really good read. I enjoyed some of the twists and turns in the book, and really enjoyed the strong nature theme throughout the book, as someone who likes the outdoors. I am also a fan of adventure and enjoyed this aspect of the book, especially all the journeys and the people they met. Also, I liked how varied all the places they visited were. Overall, it was a really entertaining and worthwhile read. Who would I recommend this to? First, I would obviously recommend this book to nature enthusiasts as it contains a lot of information and writing about plants and the outdoors. I would also recommend this book to adventure lovers as this book is very exciting and action-packed. I think I would recommend this book for ages 8-14 as the writing was all age-appropriate, but I think it would be quite a long book for anyone younger. If you are looking for an entertaining,adventurous and outdoorsy read, then this is the book for you. Evie, Mostly Books Youth Ambassador

The book is about a girl named Orla who wants to find a cure when people start getting sick and nature is blamed. She wants to not only cure the sickness but save the plants. Orla and two other stowaways called Idris and Ariana are not friends to start. I like that they eventually start working together and become good friends. My favourite character was Ariana as she was always thought to be a girl who had everything. In reality she and her Mother were really only there because they were related to Atlas and he needed them to find the cure for the disease. She’s also my favourite character as she’s really clever and she helps throughout Orla’s journey. I liked the book because it’s got an amazing backstory that’s put together in flashbacks and characters accounts. The story is an interesting read and is something a bit different to the usual children’s sci fi books. Oliver, Mostly Books Youth Ambassador

When I started reading this book I found it slightly slow to begin with. But as I continued to read I found it a lot quicker. During the book there was a lot of suspense and I liked that. If I saw this book in a bookshop I might not have picked it up, but I am really glad that mostly books gave it to me to read. It was an adventure that I wish I could live in forever.

Personally my favourite character was Ariana because at first she doesn’t seem like the brightest of the bunch but as I went through the story I realised how smart she was with decoding Orla’s mum’s book to find the antidote for the sickness. Although Ariana should be more open about how she is feeling like if she feels ill or not. Instead of hiding it.

To conclude, I think this is a wonderful book and would recommend it to anyone who enjoys adventure books and new friendships.  Reaghan, Mostly Books Youth Ambassador.

Additional information

Weight 0.24 kg
Dimensions 19.8 × 13.8 × 2.3 cm






vii, 308




Paperback original


823.92 (edition:23)


Ages 5-12 / Code: B