Margin Notes



What I was Reading:

A middle school novel by Lawrence Hill? Yes, please! Beatrice and Croc Harry is a genuine and creative romp filled with fascinating words, a new land full of adventure, an intriguing and brave protagonist and a talking crocodile, who build a curious and complex relationship out of intellect, wit, and sincerity. “Using playful language and a comic touch, the novel explores themes of identity, the courage to confront injustice, and the possibility that perpetrators of injustice and those who have been harmed might find themselves in a place of healing and respect” (from Lawrence Hill’s website).

Moves I Noticed the Author Making:

  • Complex words in a new and complex world: Throughout the novel, Beatrice and Croc Harry share witty banter full of wild new vocabulary words that are wielded almost as weapons used to challenge and outwit. Some words will be new to readers, some are completely made up, and some are related to local/cultural dialect. It looks like this:


Croc Harry exhaled loudly. “Attitudinous brat!”

“How dare you call me attitudinous,” Beatrice said.

“Well, you are!”

“Is that even a word?”

“It’s a word in my books. It means too mouthy for your own good.”

“Well, if I’m attitudinous, it so happens that you smell like an unwashed bear. And you are positively assitudinous.”

“I bathe daily,” Croc Harry said. “And assitudinous is not a word.”

“It is in my books,” Beatrice said.

“So what’s it mean, then?” Croc Harry asked.

“Stubborn like a donkey.”

  • Create an authoritative text to make it real: The author gives a specific name to the made-up dictionary that holds many of these creative and complicated words and concepts explored by Bea and Croc Harry, which makes them seem more meaningful. As complex vocabulary is introduced, the words are often defined by one of the characters or by Beatrice’s unique dictionary. Hill names the dictionary in this story “The St. Lawrence Dictionary of Only the Best Words, Real and Concocted.”

Possibilities for Writers

  • In March 2022, the New York Times’ Learning Center encouraged teens to compete by creating new words and definitions. Check it out here: 24 New Words Invented by Teenagers – The New York Times ( See what exciting words your writers can come up with. Build a word wall to display what new words students have learned and created.
  • Challenge your writers to invent a new dictionary to hold these exciting new words. Create elaborate definitions for words and come up with a creative name for individual dictionaries. You could also make this a collaborative event in the classroom by creating a classroom dictionary of weird and wonderful words.

Cristina Furey is a UNB student who loves sharing words and stories with people of all ages. She believes there is no better feeling than recommending good books to the readers who need them most and always hopes the magic of storytelling will capture attention and foster the joy of reading in all hearts and minds.

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