Publishers' Preview: Spring 2022: Five Questions for Phil Stamper

This interview originally appeared in the March/April 2022 Horn Book Magazine as part of the Publishers’ Previews: Spring 2022, an advertising supplement that allows participating publishers a chance to each highlight a book from its current list. They choose the books; we ask the questions.

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Is Small Town Pride possible? Jake’s father means well, but hanging a huge Pride flag on the family’s flagpole isn’t about to gain Jake any allies. Or is it?

1. Do you display a Pride flag?

My husband and I have lived in apartments for the last few years, so we haven’t been able to put one up. (We compensate by having a lot of Pride T-shirts.) But we recently bought a house, so we’ll finally be able to display one and bring a little bit of joy to our new community. I can’t wait!

2. Did you have a Jenna in middle school?

I had a few close friends, but no Jenna. I didn’t come out until much later — eighteen — so I didn’t have that kind of unconditional support while I was growing up. That’s why it was so much fun to capture Jake and Jenna’s story. She’s imperfect, but she’s a wonderful ally.

3. And what book got you through it?

I didn’t know of anything with queer representation, so I didn’t have a ton of books that got me “through it.” But I clung to the Animorphs and Dear America series, and eventually Agatha Christie. I was drawn to the endless escape that a long series offers.

4. What’s the most necessary ingredient for a successful Pride party?

Jake openly wonders what Pride means to him. He sees examples in his life, but it’s a feeling he can’t quite grasp for himself until the end of the book. I think Pride parties are more than the physical things — flags, shirts, confetti. Taking time to understand what Pride means to you is truly the most important part of any Pride celebration.

5. Why, oh, why, oh, why, oh? (I can hum a few bars if it helps.)

“Why did I ever leave Ohio?” I’m always down for a sing-along, but…I had to leave my small town because I found acceptance in larger cities — which might be why I’ve lived in DC, London, and New York over the years. In this book, I thought back to my rural village experience and reimagined what it would’ve been like if I had sought out those pockets of acceptance that surely did exist in small towns. With Jake’s story, I wanted to get the message across that you don’t always have to flee your hometown. Sometimes support is right at home, waiting for you to find it.

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Photo: Eileen Meny Photography.

Roger Sutton
Roger Sutton

Roger Sutton was editor in chief of The Horn Book, Inc. from 1996-2021. He was previously editor of The Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books and a children's and young adult librarian. He received his M.A. in library science from the University of Chicago in 1982 and a B.A. from Pitzer College in 1978. Follow him on Twitter: @RogerReads.

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