Seymour Hamilton on The Laughing Princess as Audio and Teaching Tool

As a teacher myself, and in conversation with other teachers, I have often complained that either my students do not do the assigned reading ahead of class, or if they do, it is by flash-reading as they might scan the splash page of a web site.  In the first case, they are not able to enter into a discussion of content, in the second, they have little awareness of the style, tone and language in which the piece was written.  Their study and comprehension of the imaginative literature presented in English classes is reduced to memorizing a stew-pot of messages.

Parents rarely take the time, and seldom have the skill, to read effectively out loud, with the result that most young people read silently.  Teachers face the same constraints of time and ability. Consequently, many students read only for content, never realizing the beauty of words that have been taken from the page and offered as a performance. It is not that they do not know the magic of words: they encounter it daily in the music they listen to, but all too often they cannot unlock that music from the printed page.

The Laughing Princess was written to be read out loud.

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Accordingly, I recorded it so that it can be listened to and downloaded, free, from

A teacher can therefore play the recording in class, or hand out a “thumb drive” containing the downloaded audio files, so that students can listen on their MP3 players or smartphones — an audio experience that takes place in the theatre between their ears.  Alternately, a teacher can provide the students with the URL for Podiobooks, where they can download the stories themselves. If they wish, they can then read background material and through which they can interact with me, the author on the story website at

The title might make you think this is a book that should have a pink dust jacket; however, the Princess in the first story is very much a tomboy, who learns to “be, and dare, and risk” as a result of meeting with a sea-dragon. The other eleven stories all involve dragons. They are sometimes gentle and understanding, like the Angular Dragon, who counsels a poet; sometimes soulless and tyrannical, like the Mountain Dragon with whom a blind man matches wits; some dispense drastic justice, like the fire dragon who deals with a wife-beating innkeeper.

The dragons grant wishes that can be exceedingly dangerous to the human beings within the stories.  The protagonists include a retired wizard, a poet who has lost his gift of words, a pretty girl who believes she is entitled to more of everything, a warrior who hires out as a formidable bodyguard, a musician who must choose between his love and his music, and the princess who as queen must face a heartless sea rover.

The stories are held together by a narrator, The Littlest Dragon, who tells his tales to two children who “have reached that special age at which they had discovered that their parents did not always understand them.”  Like the characters in the stories, they must choose their wishes carefully.

The stories follow in the great tradition that was started by the Brothers Grimm.  They deal in ambiguous wishes, lucky numbers, changes of fortune, crucial decisions that change lives.

The language is “family friendly,” and is accessible by readers from 12 or 14 up.  The social and moral implications of the stories can be tackled at different levels, depending on the age and sophistication of the readers.

The Laughing Princess is available in paperback and electronic versions everywhere, and as downloadable audio files from Podiobooks, read by the author.  The web site offers background material, author’s bio, etc, as well as links to the audio files.  Discussion and study suggestions for teachers are available from me, through the web site.

Editor’s note: If all goes well, The Laughing Princess will be available in Spanish in early 2013! Perfect for teaching Spanish through interesting stories!

Los más vendidos del 2011 – The Bestsellers of 2011

Para terminar el año y empezar uno nuevo con mucha esperanza, parece interesante presentarles los libros más vendidos de Açedrex del 2011.

To finish the old year and start a new one with lots of hope, it behooves us to list Açedrex’s bestsellers of 2011.

1. Tree/House by Jessica Knauss.

Due mainly to a huge promotion effort in January, this title left all the others in the dust for most of the year. Don’t forget to pick up your copy for your new reading device! ¡No desesperen! En el 2012, habrá una edición en español.

2. Historia de la célebre doña Juana de España, llamada vulgarmente “la Loca” y La guerra del moro a fines del siglo XV.

Me ha sorprendido el entusiasmo por este título, pero es natural, después de todo, que los lectores de hoy quieren leer una biografía corta y fácil de leer de este personaje histórico tan importante. Nos empeñaremos en buscar más títulos de esta índole para su agrado.

3. El ingenioso hidalgo Don Quijote de la Mancha de Miguel de Cervantes.

Es muy bonito que este libro sigue siendo tan popular. La versión en inglés no llegó a vender ni la cuarta parte de la española.

4. EMPATE: Sab y Autobiografía de Gertrudis Gómez de Avellaneda y Aves sin nido de Clorinda Matto de Turner.

Es apropriado que estas escritoras pioneras comparten la popularidad.

5. El gaucho Martín Fierro y La vuelta de Martín Fierro de José Hernández.

Además gana el galardón de haber vendido el mismo número de ejemplares en Kindle que en Nook.

6. Birds Without a Nest by Clorinda Matto de Turner.

I include this sixth place because the English version sold only a few copies less than the corresponding book in Spanish. It’s wonderful to bring this groundbreaking material to the English-speaking world.

Muchísimas gracias por leer los libros que publicamos en Açedrex y apoyar nuestro sueño. ¡Que en el 2012 se cumpla aún más!

Thank you very much for reading Açedrex books and supporting our dream. May it come true even more in 2012!