The Pumphrey Brothers Know Even 'The Old Truck' Has A Backstory Jerome and Jarrett Pumphrey have worked together on creative projects since they were kids. Their new book — illustrated with 250+ stamps — is about family, farm life, determination and hard work.
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Ever Wonder About That 'Old Truck'? 2 Brothers Wrote Its Backstory

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Ever Wonder About That 'Old Truck'? 2 Brothers Wrote Its Backstory

Ever Wonder About That 'Old Truck'? 2 Brothers Wrote Its Backstory

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  • <iframe src="" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
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On a small farm, an old truck worked hard. So begins "The Old Truck," a story about a trusty pickup truck that works alongside a family on a farm. After many years of service, it grows tired and sits rusting in the weeds until the family's young daughter grows up and decides to bring it back to life. It's written and illustrated by brothers Jarrett and Jerome Pumphrey.

JARRETT PUMPHREY: We do (laughter).

JEROME PUMPHREY: Yeah, I think we get along (laughter).

JARRETT PUMPHREY: Yeah. There are actually four of us, four brothers. And we all do things together. But Jerome and I, for whatever reason, from a pretty young age, have just clicked and worked creatively together. So it's been pretty great.

JEROME PUMPHREY: It's actually pretty cool. We both live in the same neighborhood, actually. So Jarrett's about five minutes away from me. And we've sort of set up a studio at his house to work on this. So we really do it primarily from his house.

JARRETT PUMPHREY: I mean, we do have disagreements. Obviously, we're brothers. And we don't see eye-to-eye on everything. But for the most part, when we're working on the book, we both do both roles. And it's kind of like just one person. That's kind of the connection that we have.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: We've been asking authors and illustrators how they work together or separately to bring stories to life. This isn't the brothers' first book together. They wrote a story called "Creepy Things Are Scaring Me" when they were teenagers. But it is the first time that they're illustrating a book together. And they decided to do it in a unique way.

JEROME PUMPHREY: We used stamps to create the illustrations in the book.

JARRETT PUMPHREY: When it was all said and done, we made just over 250 stamps.

JEROME PUMPHREY: It was really good for collaborating (laughter). You know, sitting, side by side, we can cut out the material together. Or I can make a stamp. Jared can create the print from it.

JARRETT PUMPHREY: You know, things like trees - there's a tree on probably every spread in the book. Every one of those trees had to have its own stamp. Every time the barn appeared, that was a stamp. There's tractors in the book. That was made with stamps. So it was a lot of stamps. And we set these rules for ourselves, you know? We wouldn't use the same stamp on the same spread multiple times. So if we had two or three trees on a spread, we'd have to make a new stamp for every single tree on that spread. And those stamps - you know, they add dozens and dozens of tiny, little leaves in them, pretty intricate. But we do it just to take that care with it and make sure that each spread was unique and special.

You know, now that I think about it, there were a lot of rules. We - you can also tell in the artwork there's a very limited color palette. There were like - what? - eight colors, I think.

JEROME PUMPHREY: We're using eight colors. And, you know, it's very easy to introduce new colors or introduce complexity. But we kept resetting to - let's just keep this simple.

JARRETT PUMPHREY: Yeah. One thing in this book that a lot of people recognized right away is the truck. It's in the same place on every spread. You get some pretty cool page-turn effects when you do that. And it also sort of reinforced this idea that we're seeing the world and all the changes in the world with this truck sort of being a constant. And I don't know. When did we land on on doing that? Though I think that was definitely Jerome's idea.

JEROME PUMPHREY: Yeah. I think, pretty early on, that's another one of these rules. We were like, if we could tell the story without moving this truck throughout the whole book, that'd be pretty impressive. I think, by doing that, we were reinforcing the idea of the truck being a permanent part of life on the farm and in the girl's life.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: The little girl who grows up to run the farm and restores the old truck to its former glory was based on the women who raised Jerome and Jarrett Pumphrey.

JARRETT PUMPHREY: We had all these women in our lives growing up - our mom. Our grandmothers both worked for the post office. They put up with a lot of nonsense, you know (laughter)? They were, you know, black women working in a place that was dominated by males. So they were putting up with a lot. And one thing that relates to the farm - our great-grandmother - she used to pick cotton. And she worked a long time picking cotton - not making a lot of money - just so she could buy her own farm. They really showed us what it was like to persist. And they had some grit to them. And, really, they could do anything they wanted to do.

JEROME PUMPHREY: Our family actually still owns the property in Louisiana that she bought. You know, she said never sell that property because she picked a lot of cotton to pay for that. So we're going to have that in the family for, you know, the rest of our lives. Like, her accomplishments were important to her. I respect that and would like to accomplish some things in my life that I can look back on and be really proud of.

JARRETT PUMPHREY: This sort of passed through the generations, the spirit of hard work and determination and sticking to it once you decide to do something, overcoming the odds to make it happen. It's something that we learned growing up. And it's something I hope to pass on my kids.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: That was Jarrett and Jerome Pumphrey talking about their book "The Old Truck."


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