Notebooks have always been a part of my life. For as long as I can remember, I’ve had a notepad close-by. My grandmother even had special notepads made for me with my name printed at the top. I treasured them.
At first, these notebooks were places to jot down ideas, make lists and doodle. But as I grew, so did my notebooks. I started to capture my days inside a diary. I’d write what was troubling me and hide the pages away. I’d even started writing poetry, too.
I knew I loved my notebooks, but I never knew just how much power they held…until I became quite sick. I spent months in bed, weeks in the hospital and years out of school. My notebook became my lifeline. I wrote about what I did that day (not much!), the dreams I had, the emotions I was feeling and more. It was the one thing I could do on my own and it was often the only thing that ever made me feel better.
And while many people keep notebooks, I never really found someone that truly understood how my notebook literally saved my life during that dark time.
Until I read The Notebook Keeper: A Story of Kindness From the Border by Stephen Briseño and illustrated by Magdalena Mora.
This book gets it. This book understands the power of the written word and the power of a notebook to literally save lives or at least completely change the course of them.
Briseno introduces us to Noemi and her mother who are fleeing their home in Mexico to find a new life in the United States. Once they arrive, they’re directed to find The Notebook Keeper. That’s the person who adds their names to the long list of others waiting to cross the border.
Noemi, like I would have been, is captured by this notebook and learns how it came to be and how The Notebook Keeper came to have this very important job. Essentially? It all comes down to kindness. The Notebook Keeper is someone who cares, who will keep spirits lifted and who will help others get through a difficult time with a patient smile.
Inspired, Noemi decides to show the same spirit of kindness in her own life as she waits for her name to be called. And when it’s time for The Notebook Keeper to cross the border and pass on the important job to someone else, she chooses Noemi and her mother for this very important role because of the kindness in their hearts.
This book. This book is everything a picture book should be: beautiful, lyrical and completely moving. It’s the perfect book to launch writer’s notebooks in the classroom and to spark powerful conversations around compassion, kindness and the journey to a new life.