The Old Truck

By Jarrett Pumphrey and Jerome Pumphrey. Norton Young Readers, 2020. 48 pages. $17.95/hardcover; $17.48/eBook. Recommended for ages 3–5.

Brothers Jarrett and Jerome Pumphrey used over 250 stamps to illustrate this strikingly simple story of a girl and a truck on a family farm. As we follow the young Black girl from childhood to adulthood, we watch the truck wear out and break down before the girl, now a grown woman, works to bring it back to life. My students loved identifying how time was passing through the illustrations. The girl grows taller. The grass grows taller. The color of the leaves change on the trees. Snow falls. The truck rusts. All of these small, subtle changes make the backdrop of the story to be one of the characters.

With only a few words on each page, this book works well for young children. With few descriptors, we watch the young girl with her family on the farm, learning how to repair everything from a bike to a tractor. As she grows up, the truck grows weary and is put out to pasture. When she is old enough to take over the farm, she pulls the truck out of the weeds and works to restore it so that it can run again. Her hard work, perseverance, and stewardship is based partly on the authors’ great-grandmother, who used money she earned picking cotton to buy her own farm in Louisiana, and their mom who raised four sons while running the family business. Their admiration for the strong women in their lives comes through simply and clearly and will inspire readers young and old.

Julia Copeland is the school librarian and technology coordinator at Greene Street Friends School in the historic Germantown neighborhood of Philadelphia, Pa. She loves reading and talking about children’s literature and works every day to help teachers diversify their classroom libraries and curriculum to reflect their school community, our country, and the world around us.

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