Publishers' Preview: Spring 2022: Five Questions for Stephen Briseño

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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The Notebook Keeper’s titular character is the hopeful immigrant unofficially charged with maintaining order among their peers seeking admittance into the United States on the Mexican border. When will Noemi and her mother’s turn come?

1. Do you keep a notebook? If so, what’s in it?

I admit I’m addicted to office supplies. There’s something about the potential of a blank notebook waiting to be filled. At the moment I have three: my bullet journal to keep my tasks in order; one for capturing book ideas and sketches; and one with the first draft of a novel-in-verse I’m working on. All three are on my person practically at all times.

2. Have you been to the border?

When I was younger I went on several trips to Mexico with my parents to visit family there. The border was an exciting place where two cultures met. Today, it’s painted as this dark beast of a thing, brooding with ill intent, needing to be reined in by force. We forget that there are actual living, breathing, and, sometimes, hurting human beings there. I hope readers will see the danger of setting aside human need in favor of politics and policy. I hope that Noemi’s story helps them empathize with those who have experienced such trauma.

3. Where do you like to think Noemi is now?

I’d like to think she and her mother made it through and found security and opportunity. Noemi’s in a classroom with a teacher who sees her for the amazing person she is — and has found a caring librarian who is placing great books into her hands.

4. You’re a teacher. Have you/will you share your book with your students?

I teach middle-school English, so I’ve kept it a secret that I’m a children’s author. I imagine they’ll react in the eye-rolling way celebrity kids react to their famous parents. But when I do let the cat out of the bag, I want my students, especially my Latinx students, to see that their dreams are possible and their stories need to be told.

5. Could you have been a notebook keeper?

No one knows how they’ll react in the face of adversity, but I hope I would have had the courage to be a notebook keeper. I think the key is to be a helper wherever you may be and to contribute some good into the world whenever possible.

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Photo: Kayla Briseño.

Roger Sutton
Roger Sutton

Editor Emeritus 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 MA in library science from the University of Chicago in 1982 and a BA from Pitzer College in 1978. Follow him on Twitter: @RogerReads.

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