Welcome to the Q&A and giveaway for the February 2020 edition of my Bartography Express newsletter, which you can read here and sign up for here.

My two-question Q&A this month is with Austin-based brothers Jarrett Pumphrey and Jerome Pumphrey, whose new picture book, The Old Truck, was published last month by Norton Young Readers.

The Pumphrey brothers’ book has been racking up starred reviews left and right, including this one from Shelf Awareness:

Inspired by the strong women in the authors’ lives and brought to life by more than 250 individually crafted stamps, The Old Truck is a quietly powerful ode to hard work and perseverance. … Place this beauty on a low shelf with easy access. It will likely be in regular circulation among discerning young readers.

I’m giving away one copy of The Old Truck to a Bartography Express subscriber with a US mailing address. If you want that winner to be you, just let me know (in the comments below or by emailing me) before midnight on February 29, and I’ll enter you in the drawing.

In the meantime, please enjoy my two-question Q&A with Jarrett Pumphrey and Jerome Pumphrey.

Chris: There are no “written by” and “illustrated by” credits in The Old Truck. Who did what in the creation of this book, and — more generally — how do you work together?

Jarrett Pumphrey (photo by Eric Pumphrey)

Jarrett: We both did a little bit of everything with this book. First we came up with the story. Once we had that, we both wrote the text — sometimes together, sometimes apart. Then we both tackled the illustrations.

We each have our own strengths and preferences, which naturally helps to sort out who does what as we work, but generally, the lines are all pretty blurred.

We’ve been making stuff together for so long that it’s almost like one person is doing all the work — one person with two heads, four eyes, and four hands. Of course, that can also have its own challenges at times, but for the most part, it works for us.

Jerome: I’ll add that, for our process, coming up with the story first helps everything else fall into place. We know it’s not just the words and not just the images, but the combination of the two that makes for the strongest book. So once we nail down the story, we write the text with some descriptions of what the images should be.

Then we sit together in front of a tablet and sketch out all the spreads. With this book, we used stamps to make the final art. Stamp making lent itself well to our collaborative process. While I’m cutting out a new stamp, for instance, Jarrett can be making prints of the previous ones. Or we might both be cutting out a bunch of flowers or trees or something. With two of us, we can get the work done a lot faster.

Chris: What do you remember about your first-ever collaboration, whatever it was and however old you were? How did that go?

Jerome Pumphrey (photo by Jarrett Pumphrey)

Jerome: The first storytelling collaboration I remember (outside of just imaginative play), is when we were in elementary school, around ages 7 and 9. (I’m the younger one.)

We’d made up a superhero character named “Wonder Willis,” and Jarrett was writing short stories while I was creating illustrations to go with them. This is before we had any thoughts about making actual books. We were just creating for fun, but we were doing quite a bit of world building with a whole cast of characters, intergalactic environments, and stuff.

We actually got a little end-of-year acknowledgement from our school for collaborating on the stories and artwork. It was a lot of fun and I think it got us thinking about “someday writing a book.”

Jarrett: Wonder Willis! We had a blast with that guy. I remember he wore lots of purple and gold. He had a big “W” on his chest and hailed from planet Woopton.

We spent a lot of time is his world. Thankfully, we had some awesome teachers who let us — we’ve been telling stories together ever since.