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Interview with Antwan Eady and The Pumphrey Brothers, THE LAST STAND

Saturday is for harvesting. And one little boy is excited to work alongside his Papa as they collect eggs, plums, peppers and pumpkins to sell at their stand in the farmers' market. Of course, it's more than a farmers' market. Papa knows each customer's order, from Ms. Rosa's pumpkins to Mr. Johnny's peppers. And when Papa can't make it to the stand, his community gathers around him, with dishes made of his own produce.



Max's Boat Pick


THE LAST STAND

Written by Antwan Eady illustrated by Jarrett Pumphrey & Jerome Pumphrey

Publisher: Knopf Books for Young Readers (January 30, 2024)

Buy now & Watch a making-of video of The Last Stand


Welcome back to Max's Boat! Thank you so much for visiting again. And for the site's first ever three-person interview! Antwan, can you tell me what inspired The Last Stand? AE: "I love this question because it's a moment of reflection for me. I knew I wanted to honor farmers through story. I didn't know the shape of the story or when I'd tell it, but it was always on my mind. The Last Stand was described as 'both an ode to and a eulogy' for American farms, specifically Black American farms and farmers I grew up with, and this is true. I wanted to honor farmers I've known, farmers I know, and farmers I hope to meet one day. In 2020, our world shifted. There were supply chain issues and food shortages. Like so many essential workers, we relied on our farmers even more. And they delivered! So this is my way of honoring their work/commitment, especially during unprecedented times. This is my way of saying, 'I see you. And I thank you.' It's also my way of letting young dreamers know that it's aspirational to dream of becoming a farmer. So, that year, I searched my notes app for the idea about farmers I had, and I began drafting the story. Around Thanksgiving that year, I workshopped it with a friend and went back to the drawing board. It sold in a 9-house auction February '21. Now, here we are!"


What do you think the Pumphrey Brothers brought to the book that perhaps wasn't originally there?

AE: "In a starred review from Kirkus, they wrote, 'The Pumphreys' bold, stunning artwork, created with digitally edited handmade stamps, perfectly captures the pace of hot summer days in the rural South, the joy of growing produce for others, and the sadness of losing these important sources of nutritious food and community.' Readers wouldn't have gathered all of that from the text.. not without knowing my 'why' beforehand. So, in many ways, I began a story that the Pumphrey Brothers completed. 


Textually, there's a story about a boy, his grandfather and their stand at the farmers' market a.k.a the last stand. Visually, the Pumphrey Brothers offered more to the story in the background of many spreads. There, in the background, we learn more about Papa, we learn more about Grandma and their community, and on the very last page, they leave us with something even more divine, and that's hope. Hope for a community and the world in which that community exists. Even more, what you'll see on that last page is personally connected to the Pumphrey Brothers and that makes it even more special. Oh and the case! I encourage all readers to remove the case cover for an amazzzing reveal."


Jarrett and Jerome, The Last Stand very much brought to mind, for me at least, The Old Truck. Did you feel that as well upon reading the text, as if there was an intrinsic kinship between the two books?

TPB: "We certainly felt connected to Antwan’s text. We have our own personal connection to farming, but also family, community, hardship, and perseverance. Antwan’s beautiful story touches on themes we tend to explore in all our work. There are so many reasons we were thrilled we got to make this book with him."

 

How did you approach the artwork for The Last Stand? Are there any visual through lines between the two books? Or did you very consciously try to make distinctions, such as having Papa’s truck blue instead of red? TPB: "We took care to make sure The Last Stand was its own book. Antwan described Papa’s truck as blue in his text, so we didn’t have to worry about that, but we did consciously choose to go with a classic square body this time. The only reference we make to The Old Truck is an indirect one at the end. And it’s more for us than anyone else. The Irene of Irene’s Watermelons, the second stand at the farmers’ market, is our great-grandmother. She was a farmer and one of the women who inspired the female farmer in The Old Truck."


Sketches and their corresponding final spreads by the Pumphrey Brothers for The Last Stand (below):









What contemporary picture books do you hope will become the classics of the future?

AE: "Love this question! Off the top of my head, here are a few that instantly come to mind...books that I've sat with, revisited, and studied.






















Drawn Together by Minh Lê and Dan Santat













I Talk Like a River by Jordan Scott and Sydney Smith













The Day You Begin by Jacqueline Woodson and Rafael López



























Watercress by Andrea Wang and Jason Chin.










A recent book that I love, and I’m certain I’ll study one day, is Soul Food Sunday by Winsome Bingham and C.G. Esperanza."






TPB: "It’s a great time for picture books. Some contemporary books sure to be long-term favorites:








A Sick Day for Amos McGee by Philip C. Stead and Erin E. Stead














Crown by Derrick Barnes and Gordon C. James

















Pokko and the Drum by Matthew Forsythe

















The Book of Mistakes by Corinna Luyken














The Undefeated by Kwame Alexander and Kadir Nelson."


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