An Event in Black (with Shannon and Dean Hale)

Nov 11, 2014

As I've mentioned before (here, here, here, and here), I love going to author events. But even more than that, I love taking my kids to author events. Seeing the real faces of the men and women who wrote and illustrated our favorite stories adds a whole new dimension to the reading we do in the comfort of our home. So when I saw that Shannon and Dean Hale would be at The King's English promoting their new transitional book, The Princess in Black, I knew we had to go.

(Side note: it was not in my original plan to take all four of my kids, but I'll tell you more about that another day . . .  )

First, let me tell you a little about this book. While I am an avid Shannon Hale fan, my kids are not familiar with any of her other books because they are not old enough yet to enjoy them (although, I have to say that when I read Rapunzel's Revenge last year, Aaron was totally sucked in by the pictures and asked me dozens of questions about what was going on at this point or that point). But the Princess in Black is just the right level for the three older ones (ages 6, 4, and 3) to enjoy.

It's about Princess Magnolia--she's pretty and frilly and just, oh, so perfect. The Duchess Wigtower is determined to find something to put a mark in the princess's pristine reputation.While they are conversing over tea, Princess Magnolia gets an urgent call on her ring phone--a monster has escaped from Monster Land. Making a hurried excuse, Princess Magnolia transforms into . . . the Princess in Black! She dons a black mask and rides her unicorn-turned-horse to the entrance to Monster Land and puts a quick end to his hungry plans. She makes it back to tea but not without making the duchess a little suspicious.

Those who have compared it to Mercy Watson are exactly right--the full-color pictures on every page, the short chapters, the funny action reminded me of our beloved Mercy in all the right ways. And there are several more books to come! That makes me pretty happy.

Now that you know all about Princess Magnolia, you might wonder how my boys reacted to her. Because, as some of you know, they pretty much balk at anything with ribbons or lace. But I'm happy to tell you that even though this book is about a princess, it is one that girls and boys will enjoy. They eyed it warily but were immediately pulled into the story: there's action and danger, a noble horse, and an awesome goat boy . . . and also, the princess in black, who is pretty awesome herself.

Anyway, back to the author event.

The boys wore masks and tied black scarves around their heads to get into the appropriate mood.

Don't let the empty chairs fool you. We were the first ones to arrive (since I was juggling all four kids by myself, I wanted to make sure we had plenty of wiggle room).

The Hales made a dramatic entrance:


And then they talked about and read from their new book. (When they started, everyone was wearing masks, and they said something like, "We were hoping there would be some people we knew here, but we don't recognize anyone!" At which cue, Bradley whipped off his. They both acted appropriately surprised and said, "Oh, it's you! You could have been anyone under there: a monkey, a man, anyone!" Bradley reveled in the attention.) They kept it all fast-paced and entertaining so that even Bradley stayed interested the entire time (unfortunately, not Clark, but I'll reserve those details for the aforementioned post for another day).

Afterwards we waited in line to have our book signed. The Hales were personable and friendly. I was so impressed with how truly interested they were in every child in attendance, taking their questions seriously and acting thrilled to have them there.

A few days later, I saw a picture like the one below in this article from Publishers Weekly. I think I recognize three of those ninjas.

P.S. If you'd like to read more about what Shannon Hale herself thinks about this latest book, see "Like every superhero, every book has an origin story."


  1. I just went to her site, and it looks like there's a 3rd Princess Academy book?!! Whaaa....?!

  2. K, apparently my comments aren't publishing right. First, I said thanks for telling about this book! I hope it makes it to my hick library here in Lubbock.

    I'm guessing you didn't read my juicy Hank the Cowdog comment a while back. I don't think it worked. Basically, I said that your critique made me laugh and laugh! We have been listening to Hank on road trips. I would be very interested to here your opinion of him after listening. The author reads the audio books, and does different voices for all the characters, and sings the songs with full orchestration!! It's all very hilarious. And regarding the violence/name calling--my kids haven't seemed to imbibe it, and I think the violence, at least, is pretty authentic to the setting and characters (we're dealing with coyotes here, after all!!). Anyway, I wrote a long comment about it when you first posted, but I don't think it published right, and I didn't feel like rewriting it. I haven't read any Hank aloud, but it would definitely be more enjoyable AFTER listening to John Erickson read them himself. Some of the songs have made it into our family language. I think you oughta give Hank another chance :).

    1. You are not the first person to tell me your comments are being eaten! I'm obviously in need of some serious tech support. Volunteers?

      So no, I didn't see your original Hank comment, which makes me sad because it sounds like I would have thoroughly enjoyed it. I don't know that you could persuade me to ever read another Hank book (my tolerance for name calling and potty language is extremely, extremely low), but you maybe convinced me to let me kids listen to the audio version (as long as I am not in the same room). We'll see . . . :-)

  3. This one is very high up on my wish list, and likely to be on my daughter's Christmas pile. Glad you had such a good time at the event!

  4. Oh my goodness! I was laughing out loud at the Hale's entrance! Also what they said about "a monkey, a man!" Hehehe. I sure do love those Hales. Thank you so much for posting this! Back when we lived in UT going to TKE was my favorite. :D I was there for the release of Book of a Thousand Days.

    And LeUyen Pham is my favorite illustrator. I nearly died when I heard Shannon and LeUyen would be working together on this.

    Haven't posted a review of The Princess in Black, but my boys love it too! They are 6 and 4. It's a little long for my daughter, still, but I'm sure she'll grow into it.

    1. Alysa, hi! Thanks for taking the time to comment! It looks like I've met a fellow Shannon Hale fan! I'm so jealous that you went to the release of Book of a Thousand Days! That may well be my very favorite of Hale's novels!

    2. Oh. I'm a fan. I might be more than a fan, but I don't know the proper name for my true classification. Stalker? No, that's too creepy. But I have been to Shannon signings in SLC, Provo, Chicago, NYC, and Indianapolis. She never knows where I'm gonna turn up next. I'm really bummed that it looks like I won't be able to see her on the Princess in Black tour.

  5. I was disappointd we couldn't make it. Lauren has already read the book and asked if there were any more.


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