Tri-County Vanguard

Novel by Lawrence Hill scheduled to be celebrated with virtual event

Virtual event taking place at Black Loyalist Heritage Centre in Birchtown


It's back to Birchtown, virtually, for award-winning Canadian author Lawrence Hill on Jan. 13, this time with his just released novel Beatrice and Croc Harry aimed at young readers.

Hill is perhaps best known for his work, The Book of Negroes. His newest work is the first young readers' novel that Hill has written, and comes from deep within the author's soul.

The book's origin began some 20 years ago, Hill says, “when a three-year-old girl named Beatrice entered my life and suddenly became my fifth – and final – child."

"I looked for ways to bond with her. She loved a good bedtime story, so I began inventing stories featuring an older girl with the same name and her adventures with a hyperverba­l, 700pound crocodile named Harry,” writes Hill in a descriptio­n about the book.

“Every night, the fictional Beatrice would find herself in the death grip of the crocodile, who had lured her in with friendly talk, only to attempt to have her for lunch. And every night, Beatrice would narrowly escape the jaws of death by finding a new means to outfox her predator," he says.

He told his daughter dozens of variations on this theme, until she finally had her fill and moved on to other stories.

"However, I promised real-life Beatrice that one day I would turn the stories into a book and dedicate it to her," he says.

The 375-page novel, being published on Jan. 11, 2022, will formally be marketed to 9-to-14-year-old readers, but is also very much for adults, said Hill in an interview.

“I feel that it will bring much pleasure and joy to adult readers too,” he says about the book.

“I hope they will love the book every bit as much as children.”

Hill says it was a fun book to write. It was the first time he's written about a crocodile as a major character, along with a tarantula and a lemur, so he had a lot of fun creating those characters.

"I had a lot of fun conjuring up this story. It was freeing, it was fun, it was joyous. It let me inhabit a whole new world," he says. "It let my imaginatio­n go free.”

The launch of 'Beatrice and Croc Harry' is being celebrated at the Black Loyalist Heritage Center in Birchtown,

Shelburne County, on Jan. 13 with a virtual event starting at 7 p.m. called,

'An Evening with Lawrence Hill.'

Hill had initially intended to travel to Birchtown for the event, but because of the surge in COVID cases the decision was made to switch to a virtual event says Braden Chetwynd, the programmin­g and outreach coordinato­r for the Black Loyalist Heritage Centre

“This way we can ensure that the event will still move forward, and everyone will remain safe,” Chetwynd says.

There will be a link that people can sign up to watch the event virtually over Zoom. The link will be available on the centre's Facebook page, as well as its website.

“During the Zoom event people can submit their questions for Lawrence Hill to answer," he says. "We will also be recording the event so folks that cannot make it will be able to view it at a later date.”

Chetwynd says Hill's new book 'Beatrice and Croc Harry' will be available for purchase at the Black Loyalist Heritage Centre upon release.

“We will have a limited number of signed copies of the book available in our gift shop," he says.

During the virtual event, Hill will be speaking about the book and why he wrote it, as well as his long-standing connection to the Black

Loyalist Heritage Society that goes back almost 20 years.

Hill first became connected the Black Loyalist Heritage Society when their location was burned to the ground by an arsonist in 2006. Hill helped the society to raise the millions of dollars needed to rebuild what had been a small building into a full museum.

Although he's not a Black Loyalist descendant, Hill says, “I feel like I'm a descendant in a friendly supportive way. They make me feel like I'm part of the family, so to speak."

“They helped me research 'The Book of Negroes.' They were instrument­al in helping research that novel and I came many times to research that book which is set in Birchtown and Shelburne,”

he says.

Abducted as a child from her village in West Africa and forced to walk for months to the sea, Aminata Diallo is sent to live as a slave in South Carolina, reads a descriptio­n about the 'The Book of Negroes,' which is included on Hill's website. Years later, she forges her way to freedom, registerin­g her name in the historic ‘Book of Negroes.' Hill's novel “introduces one of the strongest female characters in Canadian fiction, one who cuts a swath through a world hostile to her colour and her sex,” the website reads.

Hill also spent a lot of time at the Shelburne museum researchin­g the book, which was also made into a six-part television miniseries, partially filmed in Birchtown and Shelburne.

About his latest work, Hill admits 'Beatrice and Croc Harry' wasn't easy to pen.

"I was striving to write with a light touch about heavy issues. It became my goal to write in an exuberant, playful way about a subject close to my heart: the loss and rediscover­y of identity, which is at the core of the historical experience­s of peoples of the African Diaspora," he says.

For him, it seemed only right to begin the story with Beatrice alone and abandoned in a massive forest. On the first page, when she awakens in the massive Argilia forest, she has no

memory of what happened before, or who she was.

"She doesn't even know her last name or what year it is. She is truly alone," he describes. "Nobody is coming to rescue her. So, it is up to this clever, spirited girl to find out why she is all alone, if she has a family and a community, and how to return home. It begins to dawn on Beatrice that she is Black, but she has no idea about her own racial identity. She will only begin to discover and claim it as she prepares to re-enter a very troubled world."

Hill says he wrote this story with children in mind, but at the same time he was also imagining and reaching out to adult readers who are still children at heart.

"For me, and I believe for many other adults, there is something strangely timeless and comforting about stepping with both feet into a fantasy for children," he says. "I hope that 'Beatrice and Croc Harry' speaks to children and adults of all ages who love language and who welcome story as one of humankind's greatest gifts."

He also hopes that the novel gives readers a reason to reflect about injustice and how to confront it.

"And about how perpetrato­rs of injustice and those who have been wronged might meet again later in a place of respect and healing," he says.

 ?? CONTRIBUTE­D ?? The cover of Beatrice and Croc Harry by Canadian author Lawrence Hill. Contribute­d.
CONTRIBUTE­D The cover of Beatrice and Croc Harry by Canadian author Lawrence Hill. Contribute­d.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Canada