Inspiration

by Sally Rosenberg

My immediate inspiration for writing INVINCIBLE in the winter of 2000 was the 5 year old Kessler twins, Isabel and Olivia, daughters of my wonderful friends from law school, Lewis and Tamara Kessler. Isabel was born with cerebral palsy* and Olivia was not. At the time the family was traveling to Poland for month long stints at an unique (at the time) physical therapy program where Isabel demonstrated her fierce determination to break through assumed limits.

For me, the girls modeled how the able-bodied and disabled can enhance and nourish one another’s lives. I was driven to write a piece of popular fiction that would bridge differences by creating characters whom children would want to befriend. I wanted to shift focus from limits to possibilities. To challenge fear. And to remind us that we each face disabilities, some visible, some not.

Since writing the story over two decades ago, I have come to realize that I rewrote and reimagined my late aunt’s life.

My family’s rhythms largely revolved around my Dad’s sister, Gertrude, whom we all called Missy. She had a degenerative condition called post-encephalitic syndrome** and used a wheelchair. She lived with my grandmother in an apartment two blocks from ours. We spent a lot of time there. My predominant experience of Missy was of an isolated, disconnected and unhappy person.

In the 1960s and 1970s, when I was growing up, the world outside my grandmother’s apartment was not accessible to Missy. I remember how involved it was to take her anywhere, so mostly she stayed home. My grandmother, I know, made the benevolent choice at the time not to institutionalize my aunt. There were no programs available for Missy to socialize or participate in the world outside my grandmother’s apartment. My family and my grandmothers’ friends who came to visit were my aunt’s only stimulus. Her disease had a profound impact on her mood, but, no doubt, so too did her seclusion.

I am so grateful that in 2020, 37 years after Missy’s death, that inclusion and accessibility are now concerted movements. My sincere hope is that INVINCIBLE, the book and the musical, contributes to our forward motion on these fronts, including in making theatre venues more accessible both for artists and audiences. And that the story fortifies people to live their fullest lives.

*Cerebral palsy (CP) is a neuromuscular condition that usually onsets at birth. When someone has CP, messages from the brain to the muscles can get scrambled. Although people with CP know what they want their muscles to do, the muscles won’t respond as intended because the instructions their movement doesn’t arrive properly. The severity of impairment can vary dramatically from person to person.

** Post-encephalitic syndrome is a disease believed to be caused by a viral illness that triggers degeneration of nerve cells in the brain.

PRAISE FOR THE BOOK

Prominent Professionals

"Once I started [Invincible] I read it straight through because I couldn't put it down. You did a beautiful job of telling an engrossing, well-written, touching story while making an important point in a non-preachy way. It was a thoroughly professional job…I also loved the artwork."

Judith Viorst, Author

"Every reader will want to befriend Lena and Meg. They are clever mystery solvers and compassionate adventurers. And, they are leaders who model how we can truly embrace and learn from one another, regardless of physical capacity or appearance."

Judy Woodruff, Television Journalist

Book Sellers

"Since we have started recommending this book it has become a top seller in our department. As a children’s book seller this is an easy book to hand sell. So many parents are looking for books that help teach their children some great inspirational lessons without hitting them over the head with it. This book doesn’t preach to the reader, it just inspires with its story. And the kids, well, they love the story. I can’t wait for the sequel."

Kat Shulman, Lead Children’s Book Seller,
Community Relations Liaison Barnes and Noble, Bethesda, MD

"I have been so impressed with Sally Rosenberg's ability to connect to her audience, both through Invincible and through her own formidable outreach efforts. She has unflagging energy and enthusiasm in presenting her story and her message to hundreds of children in the Washington area. Whenever she speaks anywhere, we see kids coming to our store looking for her book - and not just looking, but wanting to tell other people about it. It's clear that Invincible could easily attract a national following, and that she's an author who can make that happen."

Deborah Johnson, Book Seller
Child's Play, Washington DC

Educators

"Invincible is a wonderfully engaging novel for children ages 8-12. Our students were very responsive to this lovely story of a physically disabled princess and her struggles to be independent. Invincible fit perfectly into our theme for the school year, 'challenging assumptions.'"

Karen Middleton, Lower School Director
Maret School, Washington, DC

"Invincible captures students’ imaginations and inspires them to challenge their own personal limits. Sally Rosenberg wrote a page-turner, yet captured many topical issues such as disabilities, inclusion and diversity. Ms. Rosenberg also takes the reader on a literary hunt by incorporating palindromes throughout the story. The novel left a permanent imprint on my own three children, as they continue to be delighted when discovering palindromes in words and numbers in their everyday life. Students and teachers will be enchanted by the main characters’ adventure and eager to discuss the multiple themes in Ms. Rosenberg’s novel."

Susan Stewart, Clinical Supervisor
Department of Education, American University

Parents

"My 10-year-old daughter who is a voracious reader of fantasy books considers Invincible the best book she read all summer. She is recommending it to everyone she knows. The plot about the princess in the wheel chair was genuine rather than contrived. A good read with a message that girls can be whatever they want. Pick this up for your daughters and pass it along."

E. Honea
"Mother of girls"
Seattle, WA

"My 7 year old daughter and I just finished reading Invincible together. I was so impressed by the wonderful and inspiring story, the lovely illustrations, and the whole book! She absolutely loved the book and begged me to read more chapters each night, and frankly, how could I resist? It was just so clever, well-written and readable! And it was a really great message for little girls, that had nothing to do with finding prince charming!"

A Goldfarb
Chevy Chase, MD

"Your book has bits of Harry Potter, DaVinci Code … and much more. I really enjoyed it, and I think you have given your reader, be it child or adult, pause to think about disabled people, their plight, and their simple desire to be a part of society without being shunned or ridiculed."

Bill Rosen
Chicago, IL

Invincible Book Cover