________________ CM . . . . Volume XXIII Number 39. . . .June 16, 2017

cover

A True Home. (Heartwood Hotel, Book 1).

Kallie George. Illustrated by Stephanie Graegin.
Toronto, ON: HarperCollins, August, 2017.
163 pp., hardcover, $16.99.
ISBN 978-1-44344-393-7.

Grades 2-6 / Ages 7-11.

Review by Kim Aippersbach.

**** /4

Reviewed from Advance Reading Copy.

   
cover

The Greatest Gift. (Heartwood Hotel, Book 2).

Kallie George. Illustrated by Stephanie Graegin.
Toronto, ON: HarperCollins, August, 2017.
162 pp., hardcover, $16.99.
ISBN 978-1-44344-396-8.

Grades 2-6 / Ages 7-11.

Review by Kim Aippersbach.

**** /4

Reviewed from Advance Reading Copy.

   

excerpt:

It was with a heavy heart that Mona, suitcase in paw, followed Tilly down the hall to the kitchen the next morning. It was time to leave. Time to go back out into the forest to search for a new home.

Tilly, on the other hand, seemed much more pleasant now, and full of chatter.

“I have been here for years. This was my fifth Acorn Festival. Thank goodness the skunks didn’t come this year. They did once. Now that was bad. Lord Sudsbury never learns to leave his stink at home, no matter how many times Mr. Heartwood has told him.”

“Skunks stay here?” asked Mona.

“Oh boy, do they. They come every year for their anniversary. I always fix up their room ‘specially for them. But that’s not for a few weeks. I’ve got the squirrels’ rooms to prepare first. It’s their big convention—on best nut-storage practices. Since I’m a squirrel myself, only I can say this … but they’re trouble. They party all night long.” (From
A True Home.)

 

A True Home and The Greatest Gift are the first two novels in the “Heartwood Hotel” chapter book series: sweet, funny tales about a hotel for small forest animals. Mona is a mouse who finds a refuge at the Heartwood Hotel when her home gets flooded out in a storm. She can’t afford to stay as a guest, but she is hired temporarily to help out during the busy fall season. A True Home is the story of Mona’s discovering that she can belong at the Heartwood. There are a number of humorous adventures involving hotel guests, like Lord Sudsbury the skunk and Mrs. J the June beetle, in which Mona makes mistakes and has to figure out how to solve the trouble she creates. Then, there are a few slightly scary encounters with bears and wolves in which Mona proves clever and brave enough to save the hotel. The central conflict, however, is with Tilly the squirrel who takes an unaccountable dislike to Mona and is eager to see her leave the Heartwood. It’s Mona’s kindness that allows her to soften Tilly’s heart and turn her into a friend.

      The Greatest Gift has the hotel staff running around at the whims of a rabbit Duchess and trying to solve mysterious food thefts before a blizzard isolates the hotel. Mona again proves her cleverness and competence, but what she really wants to do is make a St. Slumber’s Day gift that can show everyone at the Heartwood how grateful she is to them. Her friendship with Tilly is tested when Mona spends so much time secretly making a present that Tilly feels left out.

      The setting and characters of Heartwood Hotel are adorable without being saccharine. A hotel made out of a hollow tree and sized for mice and badgers is brought to life with clever, humourous details. The animal characters each have their own quirky personality, from the kind-hearted badger Mr. Heartwood, who always speaks in rhyme (unless he is particularly upset), to the huffy June bug who turns out to be a travel reviewer for the Pinecone Press (so it’s a good thing Mona was nice to her).

      The plot has fun episodic adventures but also a longer, more poignant arc about Mona learning where she comes from and what happened to her family. The development of Mona’s and Tilly’s friendship is the glue that holds all the pieces together, and it will resonate particularly with children who encounter the same hesitation, misunderstanding and awkwardness as they learn how to make and keep friends.

      This series should prove popular with kids who like anthropomorphized animal stories, stories about small people in miniature worlds, and humourous adventures starring unlikely but stalwart heroes. Adults reading these stories aloud will enjoy the sly pokes at certain societal conventions and the clever development of the hollow tree setting.

Highly Recommended.

Kim Aippersbach is a writer, editor and mother of three living in Vancouver, BC.

To comment on this title or this review, send mail to cm@umanitoba.ca.

Copyright © the Manitoba Library Association. Reproduction for personal use is permitted only if this copyright notice is maintained. Any other reproduction is prohibited without permission.
Published by
The Manitoba Library Association
ISSN 1201-9364
Hosted by the University of Manitoba.
 

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