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The Picture Book Buzz

Mabel's Topsy-Turvy Homes - The Perfect Picture Book Friday #PPBF

Although not all children experience a "woe is me" reaction to separating or divorcing patents, there are few books which present a different point of view. This fun, subtly humorous picture book highlights some of the upsides to having two homes.

Mabel's Topsy-Turvy Homes

Author: Candy Wellins

Illustrator: Jess Rose

Publisher: Beaming Books (20222)

Ages: 3-8



Divorce, separate homes, resilience, adventures, family, and counting blessings.


New routines, rules, and bedrooms: after her parents' divorce, Mabel's new living situation has her feeling topsy-turvy. As she learns to adjust to having two different houses, she struggles to understand her anxiety and frustration. But a weekend caring for the class pet helps Mabel realize that having more than one home isn't such a bad thing after all. Mabel and Izzy the Iguana make a colorful duo in this lighthearted picture book, helping kids adapt to their own new, topsy-turvy adventures.

Opening Lines:

This is Mabel's house.

And this is also Mabel's house.

Mabel doesn't like having two houses.

She finds it very confusing.

Especially when her bedroom is upstairs...

but also downstairs.

What I LOVED about this book:

At the beginning, Mabel lays out the problems of living in two homes with divorced parents, such as different room locations - a bedroom upstairs and one downstairs - and bathrooms in different locations. Which could definitely be a problem when half asleep and wandering through dark halls.

Text © Candy Wellins, 2022. Image © Jess Rose, 2022.

The lack of consistency in the rules, "Jumping on the bed is never allowed . . . but also encouraged," and the meals, breakfast is always "a green smoothie and a bowl of oatmeal . . . unless it's an egg and cheese sandwich, a piece of peanut butter toast and a slice of pizza, or blueberry pancakes every other Sunday." Jess Rose's soft, colorful illustrations do an excellent job of capturing the range of Mabel's emotions and expressions and she wonderfully juxtaposes the differences in the two houses and Mabel's parents through a fun variety of spreads.

This jumble of rules, experiences, and locations makes Mabel's life feel topsy-turvy and culminates in her wanting to scream. Only that would scare Izzy, the class pet iguana she's pet sitting for the weekend.

Text © Candy Wellins, 2022. Image © Jess Rose, 2022.

So she flops on the bed and distracts herself with Izzy's journal where each classmate records Izzy's adventures when she stays at their houses. Izzy's had a jumble of experiences; she's been to a football game, apple picking, waiting out a power outage, camping, watching the Space Ninja's movie, ice skating, and numerous holidays. As she reads, Mabel remembers that particular power outage and how she just went to her other house, instead of waiting in the dark. How she watched the Space Ninja's movie in both of her houses. And how nice it is to celebrate double holidays - twice the presents & twice the hugs.

She decides that maybe, like Izzy, she's lucky to have lots of adventures. Mabel tallies up the good things about two houses, getting to help Dad with cooking and Mom with take-out, bubble baths and showers, and a chance to decorate two rooms. A blue room with a pink carpet and a pink room with a blue carpet. Kids will enjoy tracking Izzy and Mabel's floppy bunny and zebra through the images.

Text © Candy Wellins, 2022. Image © Jess Rose, 2022.

Then she can slip into her favorite princess nightgown . . .

and her favorite superhero pjs.

If you'd noticed, at each house, Mabel changed her appearance and attitude. This was a touch of illustrative genius. Although not overtly stated, the two homes let Mabel to try out two parts of herself. A quieter, pigtailed, book reading 'princess' Mabel and a rambunctious, daredevil, 'super hero' Mabel - with a halo of poofy hair (and books). I love this moment when she sees both Mabels in the mirror. I also admire that Candy Wellins doesn't specify in which house she cooked or enjoyed a bath, she left that to the illustrations. And I love that Jess Rose plays with expectations (though perhaps just with the adults), I'd have thought that the parent allowing bed bouncing and couch climbing would do the take-out and raucous showers, however Dad is the cook and the bubble bath connoisseur. 😊

The book radiates comfort and love. Both Mabel's parents are engaged, spending quality time with her. The last couple of pages really highlight how it's not so bad to have two houses. And you'll love how the ending mirrors and plays with the beginning. It's a nice reminder to look for the good in situations. This is a great book for kids experiencing divorce or separations, but also foster care, immigration, adoption, or anyone whose life just feels a little topsy-turvy.


- try making your own Izzy from a clothespin, paper, or egg cartons (harder).

- start your own adventure journal. Be sure to draw images or add pictures to your adventures, like they did for Izzy.

- do you have a class pet? Does it have an adventure journal? If not, ask to start one.

- have you ever felt your life was topy-turvy? Write a short story or draw a picture or comic about that time or event. Were there good things that happened then too? How have you changed?

If you missed the interview with Candy Wellins on Monday, find it (here).

This post is part of a series by authors and KidLit bloggers called Perfect Picture Book Fridays. For more picture book suggestions see Susanna Leonard Hill's Perfect Picture Books.


Maria Marshall

 Photograph © A. Marshall

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