Little Bee


“We must see all scars as beauty. Okay? This will be our secret.”


“Little Bee will blow you away.” - Washington Post

“One of the most vividly memorable and provocative characters in recent contemporary fiction… Cleave paces the story beautifully, lacing it with wit, compassion, and, even at the darkest moments, a searing ray of hope.” - Boston Globe

“Stunning.” - New York Times


More about Little Bee

[stextbox float=”true” align=”right” width=”200″ id=”warning” caption=”Titles”]LITTLE BEE is published in the UK, Ireland and Australia as THE OTHER HAND[/stextbox]

“Most days I wish I was a British pound coin instead of an African girl.” READ THE FIRST CHAPTER OF ‘LITTLE BEE’

“Little Bee will blow you away” – WASHINGTON POST SEE ALL THE REVIEWS

“There’s one true story in particular that made me determined to write the novel.” READ A Q&A ABOUT WHY I WROTE THIS BOOK

“We must see all scars as beauty. Okay? This will be our secret” GO BEHIND THE SCENES WITH THIS READING GROUP GUIDE AND AUTHOR INTERVIEW

“Where can I learn more about Nigeria, London, and the real world of refugees and asylum seekers?” HOW TO LEARN MORE OR GET INVOLVED


  1. Hi Robin – thanks for your question. I never have an audience or an age group in mind when I write. I try to tell stories in the most engaging and direct way I can, as if I was speaking them aloud to a group of people who might get bored & wander off if I lost concentration and let the narrative become dull. I’m quite surprised about how diverse the readers of my books turn out to be. I’ve had messages from people in their nineties, and from people in their early teens. I don’t think my work is suitable for very young people due to the occasional profanity and violence. I wouldn’t be happy for my own children to read my stuff until they were well into secondary school age.

  2. Hi Suzy, yes, there will be a film of Little Bee. I don’t have a say in what they do with the ending, although I think if they’re good they won’t need to change it. You’re quite right that the dual narrative and the novel’s somewhat cavalier attitude to time are difficult things to translate into film. I’m delighted that isn’t my job! I’m quite illogical and impulsive when it comes to writing. My strength as a writer is probably a willingness to research my characters more deeply than others might, and then to focus very hard on creating their characters on the page. For me, the plot and the structure are secondary to that, but in film they have to be primary. Novels and films are as different from each other as octopi and aircraft.

  3. Mr. Cleave,

    I’ve read both Little Bee and Incendiary, and I enjoyed both texts immensely. I’m very excited to see a new book on the way! Little Bee is such a rich text that I’m currently writing a paper about it for a graduate seminar final (I’m working on getting my master’s in English, and I’m particularly interested in post-colonial literature and theory). In part of this paper, I discuss reviews of the text to illustrate how an average readership has been responding to the very deep issues that you take up in the novel. I’ve come across many responses from both the UK and the U.S., but I am wondering if you have a Nigerian readership as well and would love to know if you’re familiar with how Nigerians may have responded to your book. If you have the time to get back to me concerning this, I would really appreciate it.

    Again, I think you’ve done great work with your novels, and I’m looking forward to Gold!


    Jessie N

  4. I am reading Little Bee, a fantastic book! I read that a movie is being made. Is it out yet? I was disappointed that I could not find mention of it anywhere.

  5. Dear Mr. Cleave-
    I’m writing to you from the state of North Carolina, where I live and work, and where an amendment that hurts many families in NC was just passed. I just finished reading “little bee” in preparation for my book club discussion next week and your ending image of Charlie running on the beach with the Nigerian children resonated with me in a way that was hopeful of a different future ahead for my 3 year old daughter. Off to sign a petition to repeal ammendment one and then order your first book… Thank you for introducing me to little bee. Eager to read more of your work.

  6. Hi Christina – thank you for your comment. I’ve been following the progress of the NC amendment. Good on you for signing the petition to repeal it. Here in the UK there is a similar ongoing struggle to get equal marriage rights for gay people. It’s horrible how much resistance there still is. I think you’re right that there can be a better future for our children’s generation. It’s an area that I think I’m going to write about at some point.

  7. Hi Suzanne – I’m glad you liked the book – thank you. Yes, there is a movie being made – it’s in development at the moment. I will post news of it on this site as soon as it comes in.

  8. Hi Chris, I’ve just returned from visiting a young Nigeria man who is in detention in London after he was accused of witchcraft and trafficked to London to act as a drugs mule. Visiting him in hospital with his three “Reliance” security guards made me think of you and your writing. His story is truly terrible and highlights a complete failure of the state to uphold his rights. We are currently looking to work with some media contacts to highlight the plight of people accused of witchcraft and trafficked. The campaign would be seriously bolstered by your support. Please let me know if you would consider this. We would be very grateful for any support. Best wishes, Gary Foxcroft – co-founder and director, Stepping Stones Nigeria
    p.s. I have spent many an hour on Ibeno beach so really did empathise with that part of the other hand!

  9. hi Chris,
    I have to say that even though i just started to read your book “little Bee” I can tell that by just reading the first two chapters that it is going to be a very intresting novel. You see, I have to read this book as for a school assignment but im glad that my teacher gave me this novel, it’s so good, the novel, that even though I know I have to give it back to the school I have gone out to buy myself my own copy. And also I also haven’t read anything about when a movie is being made.??

  10. Dear Chris Cleave, Thank you so much for Little Bee. I just finished reading your wonderful book. I love learning about the world, but I don’t read newspapers because there is so much in the world that is awful and sad, and I don’t want to be constantly depressed. I am still crying because your book is so sad and tragic and hopeful and compassionate all at the same time. The violence is terrible, but you offer hope and compassion from and to and for each of your characters. And you have a son who was perhaps your inspiration for Batman. How magical is that! You have added immeasurably to my life and what I am able to face in the world. I am running to buy your other books. Thanks again and please keep on writing. Best regards to you and your family.

  11. Dear Chris Cleave, please help me to understand- I am not sure I read the end correctly. Does Little Bee die (is that inferred by your ending) or will she live on under Sarah’s protection? You seemed to imply that “globalization” was her subsuming her life into Batman’s life and the soldiers on the beach were ready to kill or at least take Little bee away. But surely that is not really the end, it’s so tragic- or did you want it that way because it is “more honest”? I just finished your book two hours ago after reading it pretty much straight and can’t stop thinking about it!

    Beautiful novel.

    PS I understand you wouldn’t want to put this comment on the website since it could be seen as a “spoiler” even if I’m embarrassed to say I don’t actually know what happened in the end myself!

  12. chris,
    ı have read little bee recently.thank you so much for this success.Because understanding people is very important issue.especially knowing a refugee’s life teach us a lot thing about life and about sacrifice.we can again understand that in this book everyone has good sides by their bad sides.if we solve everyone’s goood sides ı hope that world will be wonderful.congratulations to you…

  13. Hi chris cleave.
    I live in turkey.
    I finished reading your book now, little bee. and really liked it. I do not regret to have read this book. and I want to read other books. I’m glad to know. I wish you continued success…

  14. Chris

    Just finished Little Bee. My wife’s friend recommended it to her so she bought it and she was just too slow to start it. I grabbed it and was engrossed. The character development was so very personal. The beach, village, jungle, house and yard settings were so visual. Great job. I have already recommended the book to several people. Incendiary next!


  15. Dear Mr. Cleave:

    I just finished reading Little Bee. I absolutely loved the book. I kept seeing the book around, heard about it on NPR radio in Oklahoma and just kept having this yearning to read the book and now I am so grateful I did. This book had sp much substance and although you say it was fictional it still had some truth (i.e. the genocides of Rwanda). I don’t want to take up too much space but I just wanted to sat Kudos and please give us a part 2 so we can know the outcome of Little Bee, Sarah and Batman (cutest character EVER).

    Dallas, Tx.

  16. I just finished reading Little Bee and thoroughly was engrossed in it. It is an excellently written book. I have ordered all of your other books becasue I am convinced you are my favorite writer.

  17. I read Little Bee in 2007 after it was given to me by a 70 year old white lady in my scrabble club (I am a Nigerian) in Johannesburg. I thoroughly enjoyed it but somehow felt that the book was “unfinished.” Reading your interview in Writers Digest now, I realize that the “incompleteness” that I felt then was intentional.

    I will certainly get your other books because reading your interview, I find you intriguing and genuine, neither fluffy nor shallow. Not another writer “out to make a quick buck.”

    I wish you greater success in your subsequent works.

  18. Hi Ike – Thank you – I’m delighted you enjoyed the book and I’m very grateful for your comments. All good wishes to you.

  19. Started reading Little Bee yesterday and was consumed! Just finished reading it this morning. It was an incredible book and I, too, feel that I have found my new favorite author. Am anxious to pick up Incendiary and Gold. Is there any word on Little Bee the movie yet – what a challenge that would be!

    If I ravish Incendiary and Gold as I quickly as I did Little Bee I will be lost so, please, stop reading this and get busy!!

  20. I was in the airport yesterday and was looking for a book to read that was NOT crime driven/suspense ( Grisham,Patterson, etc) and how lucky I was to find your book in the middle of all these crime dramas!

    what a fantastic read- finished it in 1 night.

    I was sure this had to be made into a movie- BUT after checking google I have found its not! When will this movie come out?

    thanks for a enjoyable book (although a little sad).


  21. I usually give a book 50 pages to grab my attention. Little Bee had me hooked from the first sentence. I finished it in one day. I loved the way it unfolded in layers, answering all of my questions.

    My book club will discuss Little Bee next month. Is there a message you would like to send to them? Is there one point that we shouldn’t miss?

  22. Mr Cleave,
    ı am from Turkey, I am lawyer here..
    I have just finished Little Bee.. I want to watch the movie of Little Bee.. It will be really greate!
    many thanks..

  23. when will we ever learn , I was asked to carry out a feasibility study by a bio oil company, they promised a future and hope to the poorest people with no intention of fulfilling those promises …you see their aim was to collect world grants . The awful thing was it actually was feasible, for my part i realised this early on and bowed out of the programme .
    Your portrayal of your main characters was heart wrenching , as a novel i congratulate you, as a thought provoking piece again i congratulate you
    I truly hope one day there will be globalisation .

  24. I just finished your book Little Bee, i immediately went to the internet to find out about the movie. When will it be out?

  25. mr cleave-

    Little Bee was amazing! i am so glad i read it, and thank you for writing such a fantastic book. This book has made a difference in my life, and my view on things, and i hope to read some of your other books.

    again, thank you.

  26. Hi Sally – thank you very much – I’m delighted the book meant something to you.

  27. Hi Kia – glad you liked the book. The movie is making progress, and I will post the info here and on Twitter when it comes out – sorry I don’t know more at this stage!

  28. Mr. Cleave, having just read Little Bee you awaken me again to the plight of the Mexian and other illegal immigents to the US. It is a sad day knowing how the average citizen looks upon these folks and it is these folks that harvest our crops and roofs our houses and does all kinds of work the average white person runs from.
    I am grateful for the talent you have as a writer and to give us the beautiful stories of Little Bee and Gold. I am on to the next book Incendiay as quickly as possible. I will look forward to the movie

  29. I am half way through reading “Little Bee” and am really enjoying it and the style of writing from the two main characters. I was wondering how much of the Nigerian refugee’s life in the UK initially is based on fact. It seems very realistic, but horribly inhuman. I am glad this book was recommended to our book-club.

  30. A great read. Is this based on real refugee’s time in a detention centre and subsequent release without papers. It seems so realistic, although I hate to think that refugees are treated so inhumanely. We in the west cannot come close to imagining how so many others suffer, can we?

  31. to said that Little Bee was just a book that it was given at college, it will be a lay. I love it, and even though my whole class is using other stories and other authors for their research papers I choose Little Bee. This book was amazing and I can say how easy was to follow. I felt every little piece of this book… And I will say it, I cry, I cry like a baby!!
    Chris your work is unbelievable! please keep writen….

    Loves from Argentina

  32. Hi Chris. The Other Hand made a profound impression on me and it was so nice to talk to you about the book at the Copenhagen book fair…less than 24 hours after finishing reading it. Looking forward to reading Gold.

  33. I give The Other Hand five stars. It’s tragic, it’s funny, it makes you think. It captured me. One of the books that was hard for me to put down after I started reading.

    Thank you.


  34. I downloaded LITTLE BEE randomly as I was trying to figure out how to work my Kobo e-reader – I’m so glad I did. I can’t remember the last novel I read that drew me into the characters’ lives the way your novel did (I’ll be thinking about Little Bee and Batman for a long time to come). I’m a Canadian kids’ writer, and your mastery of your craft leaves me wondering how I ever thought I could be a writer. My first novel, A HARE IN THE ELEPHANT’S TRUNK, is the fictionalized story of one of the Lost Boys of Sudan, Jacob Deng, who is now a Canadian citizen and a friend of mine. I can’t wait to read GOLD. Thank you so much for sharing your talent.

  35. Loved the book Little Bee. Can’t wait until it comes out in a movie. What a talented writer . I have also read your other books.

  36. Why is Little Bee wearing an engagement and wedding ring on the cover of the book?

  37. Thank you Mr. Cleave for the amazing book. It was really touching. I loved the Batman( Charlie ) and Udo. The two were my favorite. But as I read the story, it seemed a bit complex with the oil conflict. I wasn’t quite sure with it. But still, the book was amazing. Thank you so Much.

  38. I’ve just started reading Little Bee for the second time in anticipation of sharing it with my Toastmaster’s Group. Given an assignment to present a 12 to15-minute reading, I considered lots of excellent writers, but settled on your work because I couldn’t think of anyone else who triggered such a breathtaking range of emotion, making me laugh and cry…in the same paragraph! Though it will be challenging to do justice to your writing, it’s absurdly easy to find a good selection. I opened chapter two at random and struck pay dirt…quite literally. Thank you for writing with such heart.

  39. Mr. Cleave,

    Both my friend and I read your book. I loved it! Upon finishing this book both my friend and I have come to some arguments. The main argument we have with each other is the outcome of Udo. On the very last page your book talks about how Udo is watching Charlie play and she is laughing until she can’t even hear the crashing waves behind her. I thought for sure that these soldier were their to kill her. My friend thinks otherwise.

    So, Mr. Cleave, my friend and I were wondering what, in fact, you were alluding to, whether Udo lives or dies.

    Thank you so much,

    Nick Hopkins

  40. Hi,
    I just finished Little Bee a couple weeks ago. I am curious to why it its not on sparknotes. But I loved it. Everything was perfectly portrayed. My friend is Nigerian and it was great to discuss this novel with her. I am looking forward to reading your other novels.

  41. I’m a Nigerian in Nigeria just reading Little Bee. Lovely book it is. One of those books you read and keep in your safe deposit box in a bank. Good job Mr Cleave!

  42. Caro Chris Cleave,
    Desculpe por estar escrevendo essa mensagem em português, o que dará um certo trabalho para você traduzir, mas é que acabei de ler Pequena Abelha e estou tão maravilhada e emocionada que não me senti bem em elaborar o meu texto em inglês. Acho que também preciso aprender um pouco mais de sua língua para isso. =)
    Bem, eu só queria agradecer pelo belíssimo livro que você escreveu. Pequena Abelha me proporcionou pensar tão alto e me entragar para uma aventura. Foi o começo de ano perfeito. A partir dessa história eu me sinto diferente. Em vários momentos eu me indetifiquei completamente, o que me surpreendeu muito. Pequena Abelha me fez ter vontade de escrever, conversar, debater sobre o livro e recomendar essa história tão bonita.
    Muito obrigada, Chris
    Ter pessoas como você nos contando história como essa é uma dádiva.
    Abraços de sua mais nova fã. Diretamente do Pará, norte do Brasil.

  43. Hello Chris,

    I read Little Bee a couple of weeks ago and enjoyed it very much, but what those monsters did to Little Bee’s sister on the beach still haunts me , it was so graphic!! Also I think it is a shame that the story ended “up in the air”so to speak. Not knowing what happened to Little Bee when the soldiers took her away and what Sarah did afterwards is frustrating.

  44. Dear Chris Cleave!

    I’ve just read Little Bee as a school-project, and I’m really happy that I chose that book!
    I love the book about Little Bee and Sarah! And I love the way you write! :)

    For my project I just wondered:
    -What was your inspiration for Little Bee
    -And I’ve also read that you grew up in Cameroon in Africa, and I just wondered if you got some inspiration from the time you lived there?

    Best regards from Ingrid, from Norway!


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