Two Homes, One Heart by Jessica Young (+ GIVEAWAY)

Hello, Picture Book Builders people.

When you are a part of a critique group and one of your critique buddies has a brand new book, you want to celebrate it, right? I know I sure do! Today, I am so excited to share Jessica Young and Chelsea O’Byrne’s Two Homes, One Heart.

But I’m not the only one who loves this lyrical, heartfelt book. Check out this STARRED review:

“A separation grows into expanded love… Though the text is spare, the characters’ love for one another is palpable.”— Kirkus

Nice, huh?

Today, Jessica Young is with us at Picture Book Builders. Let’s ask her some questions, shall we?

TS: Jessica, welcome to Picture Book Builders. Tell us about Two Homes, One Heart.

JY: Thank you so much for having me! Two Homes, One Heart is a picture book about a family going through separation/divorce and the main character adjusting to having two homes, adapting to the loss and the possibilities that presents, and recognizing that while families change, love is constant. 

TS: What inspired this relatable-to-so-many gem of a book?

JY: Many children experience divorce, but growing up, I don’t remember seeing it reflected in many picture books. As a child I spent time in two homes, and I’ve known other family members, friends, and students (when I was teaching) who have as well. I wanted to convey an essence of the experience that many readers could relate to, regardless of the specifics of their circumstances. I hope the book will resonate with anyone who has made their home in more than one place. As the saying goes, “Home is where the heart is,” and hearts are portable.

TS: I feel like Two Homes, One Heart is a book so many kids (and grownups!) will want to hug! What was the revision process like for you? How did you go about getting the story juuuuuust right?

JY: Thank you—I hope reading it feels like a hug! I thought of the title first. As the text developed, I realized it had a regular cadence like a heartbeat, so I tried to work within that rhythmic structure. In addition to addressing loss and change, I wanted the story to pivot in the middle and become additive rather than subtractive, focusing on what can be gained by having two homes after acknowledging what might be lost. I also wanted to allow for visual interpretation and incorporate opposites like hello/goodbye, together/apart, different/same,lost/found,here/there,and old/new to reinforce the idea of change and growth. I consulted with family members and friends who’ve experienced divorce and having two homes. And as always, having my wonderful critique partners (thank you!), agent, and editor bring their perspectives, experience, vision, and ears to the text was invaluable. It was a team effort!

TS: What was your reaction when you first saw Chelsea O’Byrne’s illustrations? Do you have a favorite spread?

JY: The illustrations are so beautiful! The color is what struck me first. I love the jewel-like hues and luminous quality as well as the expressive characters—details like the angle of an eyebrow or the curve of a mouth say so much. The perspective zooms in and out, showing the exterior of the houses and allowing us to peek through the windows at the characters, then situating the reader in the kitchen as the child and her mom cook a meal,and in the child’s new bedroom as she helps her dad paint the walls.I can’t pick a favorite spread, but I love how the “Space to stretch, room to dream.” pages evoke a feeling of contentment and joy and how colors from each home are reflected in the other along with hints of green, the color associated with the child. I’m especially fond of the “Big hopes growing strong.” spread which gives a sense of community and is full of gorgeous fall hues.

TS: The front and back endpapers are a perfect addition to this book. Please describe them a bit. Who came up with this idea?

JY: The endpapers were a fantastic surprise! They’re playful and fun, and they augment the story by providing additional glimpses of the character’s life. Chelsea uses color throughout the story to expand it in such a wonderful way. Yellow is associated with one parent, and blue represents the other. This is reinforced in the endpapers: the front endpapers show the yellow interior walls of the mom’s house with framed pictures and the child’s drawings of her and her mom, and the back endpapers show the blue walls of the dad’s house with pictures and art showing memories of the child with her dad.

TS: The text in Two Homes, One Heart is spare. Give us some author-y advice on how to tell a big story in such a succinct way.

JY: I feel like it’s so different for each text, and in this case, it was more organic than planned. The text is short, and each line of it is short as well. Starting with the constraints of rhyme and rhythm and trying to express the essence of having two homes gave some limits. Then I incorporated pairs of opposites as well as a turn in the middle of the story. I set boundaries and tried to work within them, but also tried to be flexible and responsive to what developed. So much of the story is in the illustrations. It’s hard to separate the images from the text now, but the rich visual story is what brought the spare text to life. I think leaving room for that really helped.

TS: Scoop time! What’s next?

JY: My next picture book is about two sisters who have different points of view and ways of doing things. On their first day of school, they meet a friend who gives them a new perspective and an appreciation for each other and for the treasure of being in the moment. I’m looking forward to sharing more about it soon!


Jessica Young grew up in Ontario, Canada. Jessica is a former art teacher, and she loves sharing the creative process with young readers through author visits. Some of the award-winning books she has written include: I’ll Meet You in Your Dreams, My Blue is Happy, Play This BookPet This Book, the Fairylight Friends series, the Haggis and Tank Unleashed series, and Baby’s Here!

Visit her website at


Jessica is giving away a copy of Two Homes, One Heart! For a chance to win, please leave a comment on this post. For another chance, link to this post on Twitter. (Yes, I still call it that.) Be sure to tag @SauerTammi and @happybluejess.


Congratulations, Becki J. Kidd! You won a signed copy of Down the Hole!

Tammi Sauer

Tammi Sauer, a former teacher and library media specialist, is a full-time children's book author who presents at schools and conferences across the country. She has more than 30 published picture books and has many others on the way. Her books have received awards, earned starred reviews, made lists, been made into musicals, and been translated into many different languages. Most importantly, kids really like her books! To learn more about Tammi and her books, please visit and follow her on Twitter at @SauerTammi.


  1. Thank you for sharing your process, Jessica! It’s a tough subject, but it looks like you’ve acknowledged the difficulties and embraced the advantages. I’d love to read it. Best wishes.

  2. Debra Kempf Shumaker

    This book looks wonderful and so important. Can’t wait to read it.

  3. Wow! I can’t recall another PB that addresses this issue. Thanks.

  4. danielle hammelef

    This picture book is going to be important for families going through separation/divorce. I’m intrigued about the spare text and leaving room for the illustrator to show the story. Thank you for the interview.

  5. I love that you and Chelsea have created a book that offers a realistic yet positive take for kids going through a separation/divorce situation. I’m sure many readers will relate and appreciate this lovely lyrical book!

  6. A topic that will resonate with so many — beautifully done! I look forward to reading this gorgeous book. I especially like the color associations for each parent. Congratulations, Jessica and Chelsea!

  7. I love the idea of opposites and the subtractive/additive structure you used, Jessica. And Chelsea’s palette and style are fantastic. Congrats to you both.

  8. This is a special book needed in today’s world. Congratulations!

  9. A much-needed topic in kidlit. Thanks for writing this book!

  10. Jessica’s books are incredible! Can’t wait to read this one next!

  11. This looks like a wonderful book! Looking forward to reading it.

  12. This looks like a wonderful book!
    I enjoyed reading about your writing process.

  13. Looking forward to reading this! My library system has ordered 10 copies!

  14. Wow, this looks like a beautiful portrayal of a necessary topic. I can’t wait to read it! Congratulations to both Jessica and Chelsea!!

  15. I love this book, Jessica! <3 I like what you said about the rhythm of the heartbeat.

  16. Congratulations, Chelsea! I think your spare text really gives the reader the space to feel more deeply about the sadness of a broken family, and the joy that one can still take even as your heart breaks. Lovely art too. Such a necessary book. Thank you for writing it, and Tammi, for the interview.

  17. Rebecca Gardyn Levington

    I can relate to this so much as a child of divorce. Can’t wait to read this beautiful book. Congrats!

    • Thank you so much, Rebecca—that means a lot. If you haven’t read the poem “Joint Custody,” by Ada Limón, you might like it—that one really resonates with me, especially hearing her read it.

  18. What a relevant book for young readers as so many children experience the emotional and physical result of parental break-ups. I love the focus on what a child can gain and the important message: love is constant. Beautiful illustrations!

  19. Lovely! This is definitely needed for so many children. And even those who live with both parents can learn empathy for others who do not. Congratulations!

  20. Such an important topic! Can’t wait to read this book!

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