Benji, The Bad Day, and Me by Sally J Pla; illustrated by Ken Min

Hi, Sally Pla! Welcome back to Watch. Connect. Read. What have you been up to since the last time you visited on June 13, 2017? 

Sally Pla: Hi, Mr. Schu! It’s wonderful to be back! Since last year, I’ve done some traveling. (But not as much as you, Mr. Schu!) Still, I have talked to a whole bunch of kids, all across the country. And I’ve shared my own story about growing up as an undiagnosed autistic kid. I’ve wanted to tell them that we all change and grow, and you just never know what amazing things you or those around you may be capable of! Interestingly, I’ve found that I, myself, have changed and grown this year. It’s been meaningful. I’ve met so many great kids and teachers.

I’ve also been writing! I’m so excited to tell you about my very first picture book, Benji, The Bad Day, and Me. Sammy’s having a horrible day, and so is Mom. And little brother Benji, who’s autistic, knows all about what that’s like... This book is sort of like Alexander and the Terrible Horrible No Good Very Bad Day, but seen through an intersectional lens. A small tale of sibling rivalry and neurodiversity, wrapped in a big blue blanket.

Thank you for sharing your story with students as you travel across the country. Congratulations on writing Benji, The Bad Day, and Me. I love Ken Min’s cover illustration. What is your favorite thing about the cover?

Sally Pla: Ken Min is amazing! His art has brought this story to life so colorfully and joyfully. My favorite thing is the expressions on the two brothers’ faces. Poor Sammy’s a bit miserable, but Benji’s just kind of feeling chill. I also love the yellow toys – and they’re important to the story later on.

Benji, The Bad Day, and Me is your third book and debut picture book. Did you know from the beginning you would tell Sammy and Benji’s story in a picture book?

Sally Pla: I did always intend this to be a picture book. I wanted to capture the give-and-take life of two brothers through the beauty of some small moment. And I wanted to challenge a sadly misleading stereotype. I wanted to show an autistic child who is deeply empathetic and caring.  

It’s not always easy being the sibling who has to go to doctors and therapy appointments all the time, and it’s not always easy being the sibling who has to wait in the waiting room all the time… Certainly there are frustrations! But at the end of the day, family can save us.

This isn’t just true for autism families, of course! All families know frustrations and joys. And that a bad day can be righted unexpectedly by someone you love.

Please finish these sentence starters:

The Someday Birds and Stanley Will Probably Be Fine are not about autism. They are about kids on amazing, challenging adventures. (They just happen to be kids whose brains work a bit differently.)

Story is how we make sense of life, of the world, and of ourselves. It’s how humans keep from getting lost in a chaos of time-fragments!

Mr. Schu, you should have asked me what I’m working on next: a middle-grade fantasy about ‘getting lost in a chaos of time-fragments!’ Also, a story about a girl, set in the near future. And maybe another Benji story. In sum, lots of projects. Stay tuned!

And thank you so much for letting me visit!

Thank you, Sally! 

 Look for Benji, The Bad Day, and Me on September 25, 2018. 

Sammy is having the absolute rottenest, worst day ever. His little brother Benji knows exactly what that’s like. This tender story captures the challenges and joys of being a sibling, and offers readers a way to manage their own bad moods—all wrapped up in a big blue blanket. Benji, The Bad Day, and Me embraces the philosophy that we are all part of a wide spectrum of neurodiversity. And on those really bad, rotten days, you can always count on family to be there for you.


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