This picture book (created by a pair of brothers!) is sophisticated yet simple, celebratory, and circular in that its beginning connects to its whole and its close. It welcomes you in and gently ushers you along.
It’s the story of an old truck, but it’s also the story of a family, a girl who goes on to revive the truck, and a farm. Realistic with an imaginative interlude in the middle, it speaks to the beauty of days lived, of seasons passing, of moments and dreams and determination unfolding over time. It speaks, in a particular way, of love.
(click image(s) to enlarge)
The characters in this book are the old, red truck, of course, the farm, and the family—especially the little girl coming out of the barn in the spread above. The art, to me, is also a character. The geometric yet sweet, textured stamps give a wonderful quality to the pages—warm, homey, timeless, welcoming. The stamp illustration technique also brings to mind and mimics the hard work and process we see in the story on the farm and on the restored truck and the labor done by the truck itself. (See more of Jarrett and Jerome’s stamp-making behind the scenes here.)
“Part of the inspiration came from looking at books we consider timeless, books that we read when we were kids and that we still have. Even though they didn’t necessarily use stamps, the work of those mid-century illustrators had texture. It was trial and error — we tried different things, but in the end, stamps had that similar look.”
—Jerome Pumphrey from this Horn Book interview
“We didn’t grow up in the inner city. We lived on places like farms and in the suburbs. Telling those stories is absolutely essential, because it adds some dimension to the lives that black kids live. Black kids are not just in cities. They live everywhere. I’m glad we could contribute to that.”
—Jarrett Pumphrey from this Horn Book interview
And in the end it’s spring. The flowers are blooming. The truck is running again thanks to the girl who’s grown up to be a farmer. And another little girl sits on the gate of the old truck ready to help, ready to love and be loved, ready to live seasons and days and moments, to let them unfold, to dream with determination. And we as readers have a sense that this story is not over. This story goes on and on.
p.s. There’s an old truck in real life Jarrett Pumphrey restored to check out as well!
When I saw the stamp artwork in The Old Truck, I knew I had to try my own kid-friendly version to honor this beautiful book! I hope this proves to be a fun activity for young readers to live with this story more deeply, to explore the artistic process of creating it, and to play with shapes and paint.
What you’ll need:
Sponges! The kind that are compressed and “pop up” when you put them in water
Paint (I used Crayola tempera paint)
Paper—some for tracing, some for stamping!
Paper towels or rags for wiping up
The first step is to cut out your shapes. I started by drawing shapes from the book onto printer paper—the truck body, its wheels, the sun, clouds, stems, and flowers. Then I transferred those shapes onto sponges with pencil (while the sponges are still compressed—flat and stiff). You can do this freehand or by tracing around the paper or both. Then, cut out the sponge shapes! You’re almost ready to paint with stamps.
Once your sponge shapes are ready, it’s time to make them pop up! Run each sponge under water and feel it expand, which is super cool! Wring out the water (they do not need to be all the way dry) and you’ve got your stamps.
I poured my paint colors onto aluminum foil (you might have another method that works). To lighten the blue, I added some white. To make pink, I combined red and white. I also lightened up the yellow a tad for the flowers. Then, place your stamp in the paint and do some tests on scrap paper to see what thickness you want and how the process works. When you’re ready, stamp your craft paper and make a scene from The Old Truck! Stamp, stamp, stamp some more!
That’s it! This is definitely a fun one, with lots of room for play, process, and creativity. Enjoy!
While you’ve got your paints out, you might enjoy this Señorita Mariposa butterfly clothespin craft!