Over the years, an old farm truck falls into disrepair and disuse. But the truck isn’t forgotten by the farmer’s daughter, who grows up to become a skilled farmer herself and dreams of a new kind of adventure.
The Old Truck, the debut picture book from brothers Jarrett and Jerome Pumphrey, is an instant classic, updating tried and true picture book themes for a diverse modern audience. With both Pumphrey brothers acting as author and illustrator, the result is seamless storytelling through both pictures and words. Their stamped artwork is visually distinctive, with bold shapes in mellow yet colorful tones.
The Old Truck contains no dialogue, and even the narration is restrained, almost austere in its simplicity. The story is all the more remarkable for it. Using plain, accessible language, the Pumphreys personify the truck as its exhaustion reflects that of the farmer, and its own story comes full circle. Time passes gently; seasons change, wildflowers bloom, trees grow larger, baskets overflow with the harvest, and buildings quietly age.
You’ll love everything about The Old Truck, but my favorite part is how calmly and clearly the book conveys contemporary ethical messages that other picture books frantically, sometimes ploddingly, strive to achieve. It’s all there: strong, unwavering, capable women; local farm-to-market sensibility; and the importance of repairing and recycling what we have for the next generation.
Sorry, other books, but it’s going to take a lot to beat The Old Truck to the top of my 2020 list.