What better book gift than a short adventure collection about the wonders of the high seas, rare treasures on display in a museum, and bold exploration of space by two imaginative siblings? This book has it all thanks to Mabel and Sam who cope with the dangers and chaos of moving into a new house by donning their adventurous spirit and huge imaginations. Join Mabel and Sam at Home: One Brave Journey in Three Adventures by Linda Urban, illustrated by Hadley Hooper, 2018.

What is it about?

In the first adventure, Mabel and Sam are surrounded by movers and boxes and shouting and chairs. There is only one safe place for them in the new home, so Mabel, being the responsible big sister she is, becomes a sea captain. They set sail on the giant, blue, living room rug avoiding the dangers that lurk on and in the water; staying off unsafe land – at least until they get hungry.

In the second adventure, Sam begins to notice the new things in their home, only to be reminded by Mabel that they are the same as before, just different in the new house. And so Mabel becomes a Tour Guide. Whispering and directing and admiring and demonstrating (not touching), Mabel leads Sam on a New House Museum tour. Everything from their table to the lullaby chair to Sam’s bunny is displayed and discussed. Mabel is the oldest and the expert, until Sam knows more about snacking artifacts.

In the third adventure after supper, Mabel and Sam have blasted off. Sam is sent on a space walk to see things, only to discover his covers and bed are no longer in the same room with Mabel’s like they were in the old house. Mabel directs them to a new planet for space to think, but the darkness and the vastness of space start to unnerve them. Mom plugs in the moon and they are surprised by the homeyness of their new planet.

Why I picked it

This book is picture book magic. It is longer than a usual picture book, but the pacing is beautifully done and the split into three adventures flows smoothly or gives easy places to pause for later readings. I love the way Linda Urban has created the text. It is a perfect balance between imaginary and real, bringing you along in their made-up worlds, while somehow giving enough verbal clues to keep you grounded at the same time. It’s not confusing and has excellent bits of comical kid terminology and conversation to make you laugh. Mabel and Sam are believable, adorable, precocious, and charming characters.

Hadley Hooper is the most excellent choice for Mabel and Sam’s adventures. Her skills in printmaking are stunning. I love how she lays out spreads, making the illustrations feel effortless and yet perfect in feel and form. She has a brilliant color palette that masterfully works throughout the book. It begins quite spare with a dominance of blue from the main rug, evoking the feeling that the new house is quite empty and untouched like the ocean. The second adventure section grows a bit in color and a new dominating color of warm orangey/yellow as the boxes abound, the afternoon sun is setting in, and things are starting to appear out of boxes. In the final section, darkness is creeping in, the pages are covered in blue/gray, and it closes in surprise as rooms are feeling full, and almost set up, and homey again. Absolutely brilliant.

Who will love this?

While this book is especially perfect for any kid experiencing a move, this definitely isn’t a pigeon-holed issue book. The story and illustrations and whole package of this book are perfect for any kid who longs to join amazing adventures and upon every read, realize something else that the text convinced them was one thing, but the illustrations subtly reveal reality. It is an interesting, clever, and fun read. 

Bonus Gift Pairings

The depth of the stories in this book leave a lot of options for fun pairings. You could go all out and give this book at the top of a big box and fill the box with simple versions of the adventures of each section so the receiver could go on their own. I would fill the box with a stick and fabric for the mast, an umbrella, a snack, a blanket cape, and antennae. You could also choose a specific adventure and capitalize on the idea: like a fishing set for the ocean (my kids LOVE to pretend to fish in a box). 

See you tomorrow for the next book from this year in my 25 Days of Favorite New Picture Books countdown!