Author Chat with Sally J. Pla (INVISIBLE ISABEL), Plus Giveaway~ US ONLY!

Today we are very excited to share an interview with author Sally J. Pla!

Read on to learn more about the author, the book, and a giveaway!




Meet the Author: Sally J. Pla

Sally J. Pla is the author of three acclaimed novels—The Someday Birds; Stanley Will Probably Be Fine; and The Fire, the Water, and Maudie McGinn—and a picture book, Benji, the Bad Day, and Me. She is an autism/neurodiversity advocate who has worked as a business journalist and in public education. She lives with her family in Southern California, not too far from the ocean.

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About the Book: Invisible Isabel

In this illustrated middle grade novel by Schneider Award-winning author Sally J. Pla, introverted Isabel Beane learns how she can speak up to help quiet the worries she feels. For fans of Elana K. Arnold and Leslie Connor.
Isabel Beane is a shy girl who lives in a home full of havoc and hubbub and hullabaloo. With five siblings, there is too much too much-ness.
At the same time, there’s a new girl at school who is immediately popular, but she’s also not very nice to one person—Isabel.
Isabel has never felt more invisible. She has so many fears: being abandoned by her old friends at school, having to speak to strangers in public, taking the upcoming Extremely Important standardized test. Her fears feel like worry-moths that flutter in her belly. With every passing day, it seems like they get stronger and stronger. How can Invisible Isabel make people listen?
~Author Chat~

YABC:  What gave you the inspiration to write this book?

I got the inspiration by remembering how I used to feel on the school bus every morning. My body would react with a sense of impending doom! I’d scrunch down in that green leatherette bench-seat, trying to make myself small. Invisible. My heart would flutter madly. I’d gasp for breath and squinch my eyes to block out the Too-Muchness.

And I’d wonder: why was my body feeling pain? Why was my heart fluttering out of my chest? Where were these flares of shock coming from? I did fully not know. I did not understand it.

Kids can have a hard time connecting their body’s reactions to their emotional states. Especially neurodivergent (ND) kids. (There is a name, incidentally, for this disconnect of feelings from bodily responses: alexithymia. Like all things neurodivergent, it can be mild or severe, or sometimes both, in the same day). Or these feelings of mind-body-disconnect can just be due to plain old anxiety. And there are sooo many kids out there, struggling with anxiety.

I realized that I wanted to write something with love and understanding for anxious, sensitive kids like Isabel. A simple story about all the everyday struggles that can feel so insurmountable. About how hard it can be to convey or confide them, even to our loved ones, when we are small and unsure.

Anxiety is steeply on the rise among kids and teens. I’ve learned a lot in my lifetime of struggling with it, and my heart goes out any child dealing with it, and this story is for them. And, also, for that little girl who silently panicked on the school bus!

YABC: Who is your favorite character in the book?

I do have a soft spot for Monica’s dad. He’s busy and tired, but so well-intentioned! Still, putting the grownups aside, this is a story about Isabel, who has my whole heart.

YABC: Which came first, the title or the novel?

I was doodling one day and a shy little girl, her eyes downcast demurely, appeared off the point of my pencil. I imagined her saying: “I want to hide. The world is really too much today! I want to put my head in the sand like an ostrich and be invisible!” So, I drew her with her head in the sand like an ostrich. And I thought: “This girl’s name is Invisible . . . Isabel! And she has a story to tell.”

YABC: What scene in the book are you most proud of, and why?

I do rather like the “Compendium of Worry-Moths.” The deeply talented Tania de Regil illustrated this book, and she made all the worry-moths in the compendium (the “don’t-miss-the-bus” moth, the “don’t raise your hand” moth, etc.) utterly adorable! Whereas, originally, when they existed only in my imagination, the worry-moths were terrifying. Thank goodness Tania illustrated the story, and not me!

YABC:   Which was the most difficult or emotional scene to narrate?

When things come to a crisis and Isabel’s mom and dad finally realize that they’ve completely missed (and even belittled) Isabel’s symptoms of emotional pain and distress.

YABC:  Thinking way back to the beginning, what’s the most important thing you’ve learned as a writer from then to now?

I was a corporate writer/business journalist who also wrote about public education, until about twelve years ago, when a life-threatening illness made me recalibrate my life-goals. My deepest inner dream since childhood had always been to write fiction.

But how dare I? I was so unworthy. An imposter. A too-late starter. I knew nothing. I had no MFA. Didn’t come from that side of things.

I had to learn to get over myself, and declare myself worthy enough, and just, seriously, get down to work.

Amanda Palmer once said something to the effect of (to paraphrase), “NO ONE is going to anoint you with a magic wand or give you permission. You must fashion a magic-wand of your own and then hit your own self over the head with it and declare yourself an artist (or writer or musician).”

I love that.

YABC:    Which character gave you the most trouble when writing Invisible Isabel?

Monica, who is the bully character. She needed to be nuanced, to have a backstory, but to nevertheless remain “just evil enough.” Mwah ha ha.

YABC:    What is the main message or lesson you would like your reader to remember from this book?

Anxiety is real! As is the emotional and physical discomfort it causes. We never know what’s going on inside another person, so we must try to remain open, to listen, and be kind. And to never be dismissive or belittling, if someone (especially a small person) tells you they are in pain—whether it be in body or in spirit. Sit with them and listen.

YABC:   What’s up next for you?

I’ve just turned in a manuscript about two neurodivergent ninth graders, one with slow processing, the other nonspeaking autistic, who secretly fall in love—meanwhile, their unsuspecting mothers wage a political feud that threatens to tear apart their small town. It’s a bit of a farce, and a bit of a riff on Romeo and Juliet.

And another middle grade novel is being planned for beyond that.

I’ve often said it’s my mission to populate children’s literature with as many neurodivergent characters as I possibly can, and that still holds. But neurodivergent behavior is human behavior—it’s just all of us, the exact same hopes, fears, and foibles. They may be stretched into points of struggle so that life is severely harder, but still, we share the same feelings, common to all of us. All human.




Author: Sally J. Pla
Illustrator: Tania de Regil
Release Date: 7/9/24
Publisher: Quill Tree Books/HarperCollins
ISBN-10: 006326885X
ISBN-13: 9780063268852
Genre: Juvenile fiction/neurodiversity
Age Range: Ages 8-12

~ Giveaway Details ~


Three (3) winners will receive a copy of Invisible Isabel (Sally J. Pla) ~US Only!


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