Emily Barth Isler author photo

I first heard about THE COLOR OF SOUND when I featured Emily Barth Isler’s previous middle grade book, Aftermath, and I was so intrigued by the premise I couldn’t wait to feature THE COLOR OF SOUND well before its expected publication date of March 5, 2024.


The Color of Sound coverTwelve-year-old Rosie is a musical prodigy whose synesthesia allows her to see music in colors. Her mom has always pushed her to become a concert violinist, but this summer Rosie refuses to play, wanting a “normal” life. Forced to spend the summer with her grandparents, Rosie is excited to meet another girl her age hanging out on their property. The girl is familiar, and Rosie quickly pieces it together: somehow, this girl is her mother, when her mother was twelve. With help from this glitch in time―plus her grandparents, an improv group, and a new instrument―Rosie comes to understand her mother, herself, and her love of music in new ways.


In our last interview, you said, “I love having multiple irons in the fire, so to speak– it helps my creativity to have more than one project going on.” Around how many “irons” do you have in your fire at the moment?

Well, it depends how you count the irons!!! I am so lucky to be able to say that I have many irons in a few different fires right now! I am working on another middle grade novel, which is always fun, and that’s an iron. And I have now sold two picture books, so while they are “irons” in a picture book “fire,” my part of them is largely done for the moment, as the illustrators are at work making their magic! I write freelance for several magazines and blogs, so that’s another “fire” with a few irons on it at any given time, and my agent is shopping around a YA RomCom about a minor league baseball player and an aspiring sportswriter that I wrote based on my years working in both Major and Minor League baseball as a public relations intern, so I suppose that’s another iron in yet another fire? I think I’m starting to visualize all of these processes like planting seeds, and since you don’t always know what’s going to grow, and then what of that will actually flower, I am planting a lot of seeds. So maybe these are all seeds rather than irons? How’s that for too many metaphors?!

I maintain there can never be too many metaphors! I love how THE COLOR OF SOUND involves glitches in time. How did you know this needed to be a part of the story?

Thank you! This part of it really came from being a parent myself. I found myself saying to my kids many times, “I had this same problem when I was your age!” or “you have no idea– I was just like you”– and wishing I could somehow show them, in real time, what I was like at 10 or 12. It was that wish, to be able to talk to my kids as the kid I once was, that sparked this idea.

Brilliant. The main character in the COLOR OF SOUND, Rosie, has synesthesia, which allows her to see music in colors. What do you wish more people knew about synesthesia?

I think I just wish that more people knew it existed, for starters! I wasn’t diagnosed with synesthesia until my 30s, because I didn’t even know that the way my brain worked was different than most people’s. You can’t really ask the questions you don’t know are questions! It had never occurred to me to check in with other people about how they experienced all the things I took for granted as typical, so the best thing I could wish for is for everyone to understand that we all experience the world differently!

Beyond that, I think the people who do know what synesthesia is assume it’s mostly fun and games, like a cool party trick– and, don’t get me wrong, my experience with synesthesia has been largely positive. But it can also be overwhelming, overstimulating, and a little lonely, so I hope that people reading THE COLOR OF SOUND and recognizing themself in it feel less alone or less “different,” and know that it’s okay to ask grownups for help and to look for community if you’re feeling overwhelmed. I hope all kids reading the book, whether they’re neurotypical or neurodivergent, see that it’s important to have adults in your life you can share your thoughts and feelings with authentically and honestly, be it a parent or grandparent, or a trusted teacher or mentor. I wish for everyone that they don’t feel the need to keep parts of themselves hidden for fear that no one will understand or accept them.

As a neurodivergent adult with ADHD, I wished there had been books like this to help explain my differences and help me accept them at an earlier age.  What are some books you wish you’d had as a kid?

Oh gosh, every single day I am aware of the absolute bounty of wonderful new books coming out that normalize things we didn’t think were okay to talk about when I was a kid! I was a kid with severe anxiety and OCD and synesthesia, none of which I felt were okay to share about at school or with my peers! So I wish I’d had Chris Baron’s THE GRAY, and Elly Swarz’s HIDDEN TRUTHS. I wish I’d had the works of Erin Entrada Kelly and Saadia Faruqi and Jacqueline Woodson and Grace Lin and Kwame Alexander and Tae Keller and Vashti Harrison and John Schu so many other incredible writers to help me see the world through their characters’ eyes and develop more empathy and understanding of experiences outside of my own. I am so grateful that my kids are reading books that I couldn’t have even dreamed of, by authors from all over the world. What a gift!





For more about Emily Barth Isler, go to https://emilybarthisler.com/

0 replies

Leave a Reply

Want to join the discussion?
Feel free to contribute!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *