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  • Ratha Tep

Interview with The Pumphrey Brothers, SOMEWHERE IN THE BAYOU

When four swamp creatures looking to cross a river come upon a log that would allow for precisely that, they can’t believe their luck. But a questionable tail adjacent to that log gives them second thoughts.


By Jarrett Pumphrey and Jerome Pumphrey

Publisher: Norton Young Readers (March 1, 2022)

Can you tell me the origin story behind Somewhere in the Bayou?

Jarrett: "It started as a conversation we were having back in 2019 about assumptions and implicit bias. It went something like this.

We were talking about these stories that were all over the news at the time. They were all the same: first, someone assumed the worst of someone else, then they acted on that assumption, and then, uniformly, it all backfired in explosive fashion. Sadly, the incidents were occurring with such frequency, it had become almost comedic.

Speaking figuratively and asking rhetorically, I said, 'how many times do these people need to get smacked in the face before they learn their lesson.'

Jerome answered literally. 'Probably, like, three times. Rule of three and all.'

We both laughed and then wrote a book about it.

The story takes place in a bayou reminiscent of those we saw growing up in Southeast Texas, where the people are as diverse as the wildlife. We couldn’t think of a better setting or a better cast of characters for a story about a bunch of different animals whose assumptions about a tail get them into h̶o̶t̶ swampy water."

For those who love Somewhere in the Bayou, can you recommend a few other titles you think they might also enjoy, and why?

Jerome: "There are two we can think of that explore their respective topics with humor and without being didactic or too tidy in the end. We also love them for their distinctive art.

Shh! We Have a Plan by Chris Haughton

I Want My Hat Back by Jon Klassen"

What contemporary picture books do you think will be the new classics of the future?

"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."

What would be on your list of 100 best picture books of all time? "There are so many books we love for so many different reasons, so many books that are the best at what they do, that this sort of question is always a hard one to answer. Apart from all the books we’ve already mentioned, here’s a list of some we think are the best at something that we always keep close to hand:

I Want My Hat Back by Jon Klassen

Du Iz Tak? by Carson Ellis

They All Saw a Cat by Brendan Wenzel

A Polar Bear in the Snow by Mac Barnett and Shawn Harris

Last Stop on Market Street by Matt de la Peña and Christian Robinson

Layla’s Happiness by Mariahadessa Ekere Tallie and Ashleigh Corrin

Freight Train by Donald Crews

The Ranger by Nancy Vo

Shh! We Have a Plan by Chris Haughton

Do you have a favorite bookstore?

Jarrett: "This question is kind of like asking us to pick a favorite child. We have several favorites, all for their own reasons. Our favorite hometown bookstore is Blue Willow Bookshop in Houston. We don’t get to see them in person much, but they get most of our online orders. Our favorite 'big indie' is Book People in Austin. If we need something fast, we can always count on them to have it in stock. Our small town favorite is Lark & Owl Booksellers in Georgetown. It’s the perfect place to pop in when you want to find something new to read but you have no idea what that might be. One thing they all have in common is that they’ve all been so incredibly and generously supportive of our work. They’ve also all got life-long customers in the Pumphrey brothers."


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