A mythical monster in an awkward predicament is the subject of Val Murray's picture book, Kate and the Dragon.
It's a story that has roots in the author's childhood—Val is a Lakehead English student who grew up north of Toronto on 10 acres of protected wetlands.
"There weren't a lot of people to hang out with and we didn't have a TV, so my sister Kate and I spent a lot of time entertaining ourselves with books and our imaginations," Val says.
Kate was a daring kid always ready to seek out challenges, like having pretend sword fights with sticks and curtain rods.
"It's why I named my main character after her," Val explains. "Even the name Katherine means 'warrior.'"
Years later, in 2019, Val was taking a children's literature course with Dr. Chris Parkes, and, for their final assignment, he gave the class the option of writing a children's picture book. Val drew upon her youthful escapades and a writing prompt she remembered seeing on the microblogging website Tumblr that asked users to write about a dragon stranded on a tower. She then worked on her story for three years before self-publishing it in February 2022.
The result is an epic tale about "a knight named Kate and a wizard named Sebastian who investigate an unusual dragon situation."
The story is also a celebration of inclusivity and a rejection of gender and racial stereotypes—an influence from author Rick Riordan’s Percy Jackson fantasy series. Val envisions Kate and the Dragon as the first in a series of at least six books called The Avalier Adventures. She’s hoping that book two—Sebastian and the Royal Heir—will be out sometime this fall. She’s had an enthusiastic reaction to her book from adults and children alike, including at a daycare centre reading.
“There’s nothing like 50 preschoolers treating you like a rock star to boost your confidence,” Val says.
If you’d like to purchase your own copy of Kate and the Dragon, visit Val’s website: valleylilymurray.ca