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  • Ratha Tep

Interview with The Pumphrey Brothers, IT'S A SIGN!

One, Two, Kat, and Four are starting a club, and every member is good at something! Except naming clubs. If only there were some kind of sign about what their club should be called!

Max's Boat Pick:


By Jarrett Pumphrey and Jerome Pumphrey

Publisher: Hyperion Books for Children (May 10, 2022)

Can you tell me the origin story behind It's a Sign!

"It's a Sign! started with an email from Mo Willems and his editor Tracey Keevan. They reached out to us with an invitation to make the ninth book in the Elephant & Piggie Like Reading series. We were stunned and thrilled and honored and nervous and all the feelings you can imagine you’d feel if the Mo Willems reached out to you and asked you to make a book with him.

After we got over the initial shock of it all, we started thinking over what this book would be about. We learned we’d be the first duo to make an Elephant & Piggie Like Reading book, so we leaned into that and decided we’d make a book that explores collaboration. When we thought about what 'collaboration' meant to us as kids, our heads went straight to clubs. And it wasn’t long after that that we ended up with a book about a club of foxes where everyone is welcome, individuality is celebrated, and the first order of club business is making a club sign that everyone contributes to. Even if they don’t all realize it. :)"

What's your favorite in the series—besides your own, of course—and why?

Jarrett: "I have two favorites: We Are Growing! by Laurie Keller and The Cookie Fiasco by Dan Santat. Because those two launched the series and they’re both hilarious and so very smart."

Jerome: My favorite is What About Worms!? by Ryan T. Higgins. I love how even though it’s a beginning reader, it also has smart visual elements that are funny. Kind of like a picture book."

Are there any illustrators you admire for their unique style?

"Yes! In no particular order (and by no means exhaustive): Christian Robinson, Shawn Harris, Oge Mora, Sydney Smith, Sophie Blackall, Elisha Cooper, Jon Klassen, Carson Ellis, Eric Rohmann, Kadir Nelson, Mo Willems, Matthew Forsythe, Dan Santat, Alice Provensen, Oliver Jeffers, Jan Balet, Edward Bawden, Chris Haughton, the Fan Brothers. You see any of their work and you know it’s theirs."

You collaborated and published your first picture book together when you were teenagers (!) What were the picture books that inspired you then? What are the picture books that inspire you now? Have there been any constants?

"That was so long ago! It’s hard to say what was inspiring us way back then, but some definite constants have been The Snowy Day by Ezra Jack Keats, Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak, and Miss Nelson is Missing by Harry Allard and James Marshall."

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