Farshore acquires Joanna Williams’ middle-grade mystery series inspired by Black British history

Debut author Joanna Williams has created The Lizzie and Belle Mysteries series.

The books are inspired by Williams’ dedication to children discovering the “hidden histories” of inspirational British people of African descent through the protagonists of the series, Lizzie and Dido. Dido Belle lives in Kenwood House and was born to an African enslaved woman and a British naval officer, while Lizzie’s father, Ignatius Sancho, is a famous letter-writer and composer of African descent who owns a tea shop in the heart of Georgian London.

The Lizzie and Belle Mysteries

The synopsis of the series reads: “Twelve-year-old girls Lizzie Sancho and Dido Belle are from different worlds – Lizzie lives in Westminster in her dad’s tea shop, while Belle is an heiress being brought up by her aunt and uncle at grand Kenwood House – but they both share a love of solving mysteries. When their eyes meet in the audience of the Drury Lane theatre one night, both girls are sure they’ve seen something suspicious on stage. Lizzie and Belle soon find themselves on the trail of a mystery – and becoming best friends. Can they work out what is going on in time to prevent a murder?”

Liz Bankes, editorial director and Aleena Hasan editorial assistant at HarperCollins imprint Farshore, formerly Egmont, acquired world rights in all languages from Jasmine Richards at Storymix. The first title will be published on 4th August 2022, with a second book to follow in summer 2023.

Bankes and Hasan said: “Much like Lizzie and Belle’s chance meeting that one night, it felt like fate to be sent Joanna’s stunning debut. In fact, we were so bowled over by her page-turningly compelling writing and the fantastic concept that was offered on the sample alone. Joanna captures the Georgian setting in all its delicious vibrancy, but with accessible writing, an intriguing mystery plot and two brilliant heroines at the heart of it all. And the true historical background adds another thrilling layer for readers. We couldn’t be more delighted to introduce Lizzie and Belle to the world.

Williams commented: “For me, as a Black British girl, growing up in London, the question of where ‘I’ was in Britain’s past has resonated over the years and throughout my reading life. Now, historical research and storytelling combine to help me answer that question – and provoke new ones – in exciting ways for my younger self and for the young readers of today.”

Joanna Williams aka Joanna Brown is a writer and educator, and was the runner up but ‘highly recommended’ for the Life Writing Prize 2020 with Birds can be heard singing through open windows, a piece on maternal bonding and loss. Joanna also facilitates creative writing workshops. Last year she was involved in the development of the literary education programme Africa Writes: Young Voices, linking poets with London school students to explore writing from Africa and the diaspora.

To keep up with Joana for updates on the book series follow her on her socials – Twitter


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