Society of
Children's Book Writers
and Illustrators

Member Interview: Jarrett and Jerome Pumphrey

This month, we welcome to our interview series an author-illustrator dynamic duo: 

The Pumphrey Brothers: Jarrett and Jerome Pumphrey.

From their first book CREEPY THINGS ARE SCARING ME, (Harper Collins, 2003) to their recent book THE OLD TRUCK, (Norton Young Readers, 2020) to their new release coming soon, THE OLD BOAT, (Norton Young Readers, 2021) it is clear these two talented brothers enjoy creating together.

Jarrett and Jerome employ both traditional and digital media, including stamp-making, to create a timeless look for their books. More than 250 individual stamps were made for THE OLD TRUCK. . Take a look at their stamp-making process.

Main Questions:

Where did you grow up, and how did that place (or those places) shape your work?

We grew up in Houston, TX. We love Texas. It usually finds its way into our work. The farm in THE OLD TRUCK was inspired by the small farms we’d pass on our road trips across Texas. The world of THE OLD BOAT, the follow-up to THE OLD TRUCK, was inspired by our love of the Gulf Coast.


Did you always want to be involved in children’s books, or did that come later?

We’ve wanted to make children’s books since we were kids ourselves. We wrote our first book when we were teenagers.


If someone were to follow you around for 24 hours, what would they see?

These days, it would probably be a pretty uneventful 24 hours. They might see Jarrett at home reading, or at home writing, or at home spending time with the family. Maybe at home bingeing something on Netflix, though that barrel is starting to run dry. They’d probably see Jerome at home working (9 to 5) for The Walt Disney Company as a graphic designer and spending evenings working at Jarrett’s on books.  We’re both spending a lot more time at home.


How does your everyday life feed your work?

Our work is all about our everyday life. It’s hard to imagine making something that isn’t inspired by some part of our daily lives. That connection is pretty important to us.


Tell us about some accomplishments that make you proud.

When it comes to bookmaking, finishing THE OLD TRUCK probably tops the list. We worked on it for years. It was our first time writing and illustrating a book. We learned a lot. Recently, Random House is publishing a book titled SHARE YOUR RAINBOW to benefit communities affected by COVID-19. An e-book version came out July 7th and a print version is coming August 11th. All net proceeds go directly to World Central Kitchen, a global nonprofit that provides meals to kids and communities in need during times of crisis. We made one of the spreads in the book. The other spreads were made by a list of incredible artists. It was an honor to be a part of the project, and we’re happy to do it for a great cause.


What surprises you about the creative life? Also, what influenced you or led you to use stamps, initially?

Sometimes it’s surprising to see what random parts of life will inspire a story or a piece of art. Working with a collaborator, it’s fun to see what each other are being inspired by. We were drawn to stamps for a number of reasons. We both love printmaking. We love the aesthetic we got from stamps. It was the perfect medium for collaboration. And it also lent itself well to how we wanted to tell the story in THE OLD TRUCK, where a lot of the visual elements are repeated throughout the book.


When a reader discovers your work, what do you hope they find?

We hope they find the space within it to put some of themselves.


Quick-Fire Questions:

You are touring on a bicycle journey together: tandem bike or two single bikes?

Two singles. We love riding together but value our independence.


You are teammates in the Olympics: doubles tennis or doubles ping pong (table tennis)?

Ping pong. We grew up playing ping pong and might stand a chance.


Would you rather meet The Brothers Hildebrandt or The Brothers Grimm?

Probably Grimm. We like their fairytales.


What duo in children’s literature inspires you?
Oof. Do we have to name just one? Some current creative duos we love: Mac Barnett and Jon Klassen, Terry and Eric Fan, Matt de la Pena and Christian Robinson, Minh Le and Dan Santat. One classic creative duo we love: Harry Allard and James Marshall. Three literary duos we love: Calvin & Hobbes, Elephant & Piggie, Frog & Toad.