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  • Ratha Tep

Interview with The Pumphrey Brothers, THE OLD BOAT

Off a small island, an old boat sets sail and a young boy finds home. Together, boy and boat ride the shifting tides, catching wants and wishes until fate calls for a sea change.


By Jarrett Pumphrey and Jerome Pumphrey

Publisher: Norton Young Readers (March 2, 2021)

What inspired The Old Boat? TPB: "As is the case with most our work, lots of things inspired The Old Boat, but it was mainly family. Two things in particular: the trips we used to take to Galveston, TX, with our grandma when we were kids and the old boat our grandpa kept stored in his driveway. Our grandma taught us how to fish and crab; she showed us how to appreciate the ocean for the amazing resource it is. Our grandpa stored an old bay boat under his carport, and it was always the first place we’d go whenever we visited. We spent more time in that boat than we did in the house, sailing all over the world without ever leaving the driveway." Tell me about your stamps. "We started making art with stamps for a few reasons: 1) It’s a great medium for collaboration. While one of us is designing the stamps, the other can be cutting them and making prints. 2) Stamps—the foam stamps we make, at least—have a sort of built-in limiter that helps us keep things simple; you can only get so many details in there before things start to fall apart, literally. 3) We love the timeless look of classic children’s books and we can get something close to that with stamps."

Your text is so quietly and deeply moving. What are some picture books that have deeply moved you? "Big Cat, Little Cat by Elisha Cooper, A House that Once Was by Julie Fogliano and Lane Smith, Blue by Laura Vaccaro Seeger, and pretty much anything Sydney Smith illustrates, including Town is by the Sea by Joanne Schwartz, I Talk Like a River by Jordan Scott, and his very own Small in the City."

I love your gorgeous take on intergenerational love. What are some picture books you love for their compelling takes on family? "Family is a big deal to us. Some of the books that we think nail it are Alma and How She Got Her Name by Juana Martinez-Neal, Saturday by Oge Mora, Ocean Meets Sky by The Fan Brothers, Drawn Together by Minh Lê and Dan Santat."

I love The Old Boat's message of environmental stewardship. Are there other picture books you love for their unique take on environmental stewardship, responsibility or change? "There are! Here are a few: We Are Water Protectors by Carole Lindstrom and Michaela Goade, One Little Bag by Henry Cole, Here We Are by Oliver Jeffers."


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