4 Questions and 4 Sentence Starters with Sara O’Leary

Hi, Sara O'Leary! Thank you for visiting Watch. Connect. Read.! This Is Sadie is a beautiful celebration of the power of one’s imagination.  What planted the seed for Sadie’s story? 

Sara O'Leary: I guess Sadie’s a bit of a dream-child for me. She’s the little girl I would have if I’d had a little girl.   

Julie Morstad’s illustrations are absolutely perfect. I know editors often discourage authors and illustrators from communicating with each other. Since Julie illustrated your Henry stories, did you communicate while she was illustrating This Is Sadie?

Sara O'Leary: Julie and I were really lucky to be working with Tara Walker on this book and it ended up feeling like much more of a collaboration than the other three because the process was so different. Lots of back and forth. I was changing text even after receiving final art.

I pulled out the original manuscript to look at just the other day and found there wasn’t a single line in common between that text and the one in the book. But the ideas are there. For example, the fox family were there from the beginning but my feeling is that the text and the illustration don’t need to be telling the reader the same thing. As an illustrator Julie more than holds up her half of the sky and so I was happy to have the opportunity to stand back and let the images do the talking sometimes.

My favourite parts in the book are where the text says one thing (like about Sadie being quiet in the mornings) and Julie has a whole other thing going on--Sadie merrily hammering away with her portable record player playing. But I can’t even remember if the line came first or the image!

Whoa! Please tell us about this adorable Sadie doll!

Sara O'Leary: Sadie’s book birthday very nearly coincided with my own birthday so it seemed like the perfect reason to treat myself. The doll was designed and built by the very talented Atelier CarolineShe’s done other dolls for illustrators but mainly in Quebec so far. I can imagine lots of people wanting to commission her once they see what she can do.

Meanwhile, I’m looking forward to taking my little Sadie doll (and her fox baby) places with me and introducing her to some young friends.

What is the Freedom to Think initiative?

Sara O'Leary: Freedom to Think was started by the British YA writer Jonathan Stroud and it lines up perfectly with my thoughts on boredom and creativity. 

You may have noticed that in This is Sadie the parents are completely absent. Off sleeping at the beginning of the day (wish fulfillment on the part of the author!) and for the rest of the day probably staring into computer screens while Sadie is off riding her bike/horse and climbing trees and flying around. I feel like when we are doing it right our kids will know we’re the lighted house at the end of the day--waiting for them to return and recount their adventures.

Please finish these sentences:

When I Was Small, When You Were Small, and Where You Came From make me happy because they look like they were published sometime in the early 20th century rather than the 21st.

Reading is the very best way of being both alone and not alone that I know.
Download the This Is Sadie activity kit. 
Picture books are a perfect place for children to find themselves and to lose themselves.

Mr. Schu, you should have asked me why I write children’s books. It seems to me that when a child reads a book they are inviting you into their imaginative world and I can’t think of a greater honour.

Borrow This Is Sadie from your school or public library. Whenever possible, please support independent bookshops. 


  1. I loved this line:"Picture books are a perfect place for children to find themselves and to lose themselves." So true! Thanks for this great interview. Good luck with THIS IS SADIE.

  2. What an enchanting teaser and an endearing story. I look forward to reading THIS IS SADIE.


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