The Notebook Keeper: A Story of Kindness from the Border

by Stephen Briseño (Author) Magdalena Mora (Illustrator)

Reading Level: 2nd − 3rd Grade

Based on true events, this inspiring story follows a mama and her daughter who are denied entry at the U.S. border, and must find the refugee in charge of "the notebook," an unofficial ledger of those waiting to cross into the U.S.

Before, the sun drenched the yard. Our neighbor's laughter danced in the streets. Now, the streets are quiet. Papa is gone, and we are no longer safe here. We are leaving, too. In this moving and stunningly-illustrated picture book, Noemi and Mama flee their home in Mexico, and head for the US border.

There, they look for The Notebook Keeper-- the person in charge of a ledger for those waiting to cross, and they add their names to the book. As the days turn into weeks, and hope dwindles, the little girl looks for kindness around her-- and inside herself. One day, when the Notebook Keeper's own name is called to cross, Noemi and her Mama are chosen--for the generosity in their hearts-- to take her place.

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Starred Review
A heartening story emphasizing the real ways generous people step up in a crisis.

Kirkus Reviews

A hopeful story that encourages compassion.

School Library Journal

PreS-Gr 2--When their community is no longer safe and with more of their friends leaving, Noemi and her mother begin the journey to the border. Alone at first, they are soon joined by others hoping to cross into the United States. Noemi and her mother are worried to find that they must wait until their number is called before they can try to receive permission to cross--a number that is recorded in a notebook by the notebook keeper, Belinda. As days turn to weeks and Noemi sees the difficulties people around her are also facing, she is inspired by Belinda's kindness and begins to spread that kindness with her actions. When Belinda's own number is called, she chooses Noemi and her mother to continue the work as notebook keepers. The color pencil and gouache illustrations depict the many families that have made the journey for a better life and their life in the camp, while also showing readers the worry and fears etched into the faces of Noemi, her mother, and those around them. The short sentences and soft narration, from Noemi's point of view, are sprinkled with Spanish words and phrases and convey her worries as well as her determination to be a source of encouragement for others as they wait their turns. VERDICT A unique perspective on the difficulties facing families who wait at the border that makes abstract occurrences relatable and realistic, this picture book's young narrator spreads a message of hope and kindness.--Selenia Paz

Copyright 2022 School Library Journal, LLC Used with permission.

Review quotes

Stephen Briseño
Isabel Muñoz is a Spanish children's illustrator and fine arts graduate. She studied at The Complutense University of Madrid and has worked on a number of fiction and non-fiction titles, including Buttercup the Bigfoot, voted Inspired Recommendations for Kids from Indie Booksellers and Adventures to School, winner of The Alma Flor Ada Best Latino Focused Children's Picture Book Award (English). You can follow her work at

Pura Belpré Honor recipient Stephen Briseño (The Notebook Keeper) has been a middle school English teacher for over 15 years. Stephen loves everything related to books and great storytelling. He lives in San Antonio, TX with his wife and daughter.
Lexile Measure
Guided Reading Level
Random House Studio
Publication date
June 20, 2022
BISAC categories
JUV039050 - Juvenile Fiction | Social Themes | Emotions & Feelings
JUV039250 - Juvenile Fiction | Social Themes | Emigration & Immigration
JUV030100 - Juvenile Fiction | People & Places | Mexico
Library of Congress categories
Picture books
Emigration and immigration
Mexican-American Border Region
Border stations

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