Books·First Look

Lawrence Hill publishing first book for kids, get the first look at Beatrice and Croc Harry now

Beatrice and Croc Harry is for ages 9-13 and will be published on Jan. 11, 2022.

Beatrice and Croc Harry will be published on Jan. 11, 2022

Lawrence Hill is the author of several acclaimed novels, including The Book of Negroes and The Illegal. (Beatrice Freedman)

Lawrence Hill is the acclaimed author of novels such as The Book of Negroes, The IllegalSome Great Thing and Any Known Blood and the memoir Black Berry, Sweet Juice. He also delivered the 2013 Massey Lectures, Blood: The Stuff of Life. His novel The Book of Negroes won CBC's Canada Reads in 2009 and was adapted into a six-part miniseries, which can be streamed on CBC GemThe Illegal also won Canada Reads in 2016, making Hill the only author to win CBC's battle of the books twice.

Hill has won the Commonwealth Writers' Prize and the Writers' Trust Fiction Prize. He has a star on Canada's walk of fame and was named a member of the Order of Canada in 2015.

Now, for the first time, he is diving into writing for kids.

His first middle-grade novel is called Beatrice and Croc Harry.

Beatrice and Croc Harry is about a young girl who wakes up all alone in a treehouse in the woods. She doesn't know how she got there — or who she even is. But as she follows a trail of surprising and magical clues, she uncovers the story of the forest, of her family and of herself, thanks in no small part to an unlikely friend and ally, King Crocodile Croc Harry.

Beatrice and Croc Harry is for ages 9-13 and will be published on Jan. 11, 2022.

You an read can excerpt from Beatrice and Croc Harry below.

Beatrice was not entirely sure if she was dead. She raised two fingers to her lips and felt her own warm breath. She appeared to be awakening from a deep, dark dream in which she had either died or come close to it. As she opened her eyes and studied her circumstances, the facts confirmed that she was alive. She didn't know much, but she knew this: her name was indeed Beatrice. It had a certain flow. Three syllables and never just two, thank you very much.

Beatrice was lying in a single bed in a one-room, wooden cabin. She had never slept in that bed before or seen the cabin. She had no idea what awaited her outside, except an incessant woodpecker. Eight pecks in a row. Pause. Another eight pecks. And again. And again. There was nothing like a woodpecker to get her attention. It sounded like an electric hammer in the hands of a toddler. The message, being banged right into the grey matter of her brain, seemed to say, I am here and you are there and if you don't get up this very second I am going to tap tap tap tap tap tap tap tap until you go completely mad. Beatrice swung her legs off the bed. Straight ahead: three rows of shelves, stacked with books. To her left: a bedside table, and on it, two more books. On top was a manual with meticulous purple handwriting on the cover. It said: Survival Tips, Argilia Forest, 2090. Beatrice turned to the first page, which consisted of a simple message in purple ink: Outhouse is outside. Climb down the ladder and head to the river.

Ladder? River? Outhouse? Was this some sort of joke?

The second book on the bedside table was filled with the same handwriting. Each letter was tiny and printed and looked like it had been smacked into place by a typewriter key. Typewriters? How did she even know about typewriters? Beatrice remembered nothing about herself or her past, except for her first name. But she knew about typewriters. Once, she had seen several of them in a museum and was quite sure that she had laughed as she pounded the keys and slammed the carriage return and rolled out a sheet of paper. For a girl who did not even know her own age or the name of her mother, if she had a mother, Beatrice found it unsettling that she could recall typewriters and the museum sign that said people had used them as recently as a century ago.

She was bumfuzzled. Absolutely, totally, completely bumfuzzled.

Perhaps the second book would explain who she was, or where she was, or where she had come from.


No such luck.

It was a dictionary as thick as two bricks. So heavy she needed both hands to pick it up. It was entitled The St. Lawrence Dictionary of Only the Best Words, Real and Concocted. Beatrice sighed. She was hungry and in no mood to be trifled with. Still, she was curious. She flipped open the dictionary and landed on the B page. Beatrice. That is your name. Well, thanks for the information. She read on. Bumfuzzled: To be utterly confused and somewhat dazzled.

That pretty well summed things up. She was bumfuzzled. Absolutely, totally, completely bumfuzzled.

How could a person see herself in the mirror and not even know her own last name?

What kind of dictionary knew her name and spoke to her? She flipped through the huge book and located a few more words, each one strange and faintly ridiculous. The dictionary seemed like a wound-up friend, talking at her between every breath. One could only take so much of that. Beatrice shut the book. She looked all around her.

Pots and pans hung from hooks above a table. There was a hatchet. There was a sign: No cooking in the tree house. Beatrice stood up and examined herself in the mirror. She saw a girl. Not a toddler nor a teenager. Maybe 11 or 12? In her opinion, she looked short for her age. She studied her own face. Brown skin. A litany of freckles. Tight black curls, which were in a state of complete bedhead. She'd have to comb out the kinks and do something with them.

How could a person see herself in the mirror and not even know her own last name?

Beatrice was wearing a set of onesie pyjamas decorated with zebras. Really? She was too old for that. Had someone selected the zebra pyjamas for her? If so, they had underestimated her. Beatrice did not care to be underestimated. She found a stack of clothing on a dresser. Socks. Underwear. Pants. Shirt. Sweater. Sturdy runners.

She heard the terror in their voices, rising and falling. The wailing went on and on. But that was all she remembered. No images. Just sound.

She dressed quickly. The whole cabin swayed. Was she on a ship? Was it an earthquake? Beatrice ran to a window opposite the door. She looked out and saw huge leaves as big as soccer balls and branches thicker than her own body.

A shiver ran down her spine. She was alone in the tree house, high above the ground. She had no clue where she came from or how she got there, but she had caught a memory, as if it were an autumn leaf twirling through the air. The memory was connected to the dream from which she had just awakened. There had been screaming. But it was not her screaming. She was too badly hurt to speak. The screaming came from other people: men, women and children. She heard the terror in their voices, rising and falling. The wailing went on and on. But that was all she remembered. No images. Just sound.

Enough of that.

Excerpt from Beatrice and Croc Harry by Lawrence Hill ©2022. Published by HarperCollins Publishers Ltd. All rights reserved.

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