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Write On Ottawa: Dragon fables for all ages

By Janoah Willsie on August 1, 2015

Seymour Hamilton writes the kind of children’s stories that he would have wanted to read as a child. These stories, such as The Laughing Princess, are those of adventure, and self-discovery and they’re stories written to sound lyrical when read aloud. In fact, Hamilton believes so strongly in the value of listening to books read aloud that he has recorded The Laughing Princess and made it available for free on his website.

The cover of The Laughing Princess, illustrated by Shirley MacKenzie

The cover of The Laughing Princess, illustrated by Shirley MacKenzie

The Laughing Princess is a collection of stories about dragons. Within the book, the stories are told to a sister and brother by a dragon that they find by the ocean while on a family vacation. The title of the book comes from one of these stories, about a happy, young princess. One day, while swimming in the ocean, she dives too deep and can’t make it to the surface. She’s saved by a dragon who after talking to him, encourages her to follow her dream which she explains in a beautifully crafted phrase “to give, and not be used; to love, and not be owned; to become, and not to be molded by another’s will”. The princess reappears as an older woman in a story near the end of the book where it is clear she was able to achieve her dream.

Hamilton highlights that he doesn’t try to sanitize his stories for a younger audience. While the material is child-friendly, The Laughing Princess uses high level vocabulary and touches on issues such as gender roles and unhealthy relationships. However Hamilton approaches these topics delicately and uses them to teach lessons. In the story “The Witch and the Tavern Wench”, Jenny, a young woman, running away from a bad husband, meets Anna, an old, sick lady who is thought to be a witch. Jenny nurses Anna back to health and Anna in return, calls on the help of a dragon to get rid of Jenny’s angry husband. It’s a story of empowerment and self-worth. But in a very subtle, effective way.

The vocabulary does not detract from the book either. In fact it adds to it because it is clear that Hamilton chose the words carefully, to create lyrical prose through the book. As well, the higher level of vocabulary serves to introduce children to new words for them to learn and add to their vocabulary. Younger readers might not know the meaning of “copious” or “complaisant”, right away, but the book allows them to use the context of the stories to develop a greater knowledge of vocabulary.

The Laughing Princess is a collection of stories for everyone to enjoy. Although it is targeted at a younger audience, the words flow so nicely that it is a pleasure to read. As well, the stories teach age-old lessons such as loving yourself and following your dreams, things that are worth the reminder for anyone at any age. Paper copies of The Laughing Princess are available for purchase online and the audiobook is available for free on the author’s website. Definitely a book to read and to share with the younger ones.

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