Heartwood Hotel - Book #1: A True Home

ISBN 9781443443944

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Written by Kallie George, illustrated by Stephanie Graegin

When Mona the Mouse stumbles across the wondrous world of the Heartwood Hotel in the middle of a storm, she desperately hopes they'll let her stay. As it turns out, Mona is precisely the maid they need at the grandest hotel in Fernwood Forest, where animals come from far and wide for safety, luxury, and comfort. But the Heartwood Hotel is not all acorn souffl and soft moss-lined beds. Danger lurks, and as it approaches, Mona finds that this hotel is more than a warm place to spend the night. It might also be a home.

This delightfully enticing start of a new chapter book series tells a tale of friendship, courage, and community, with exquisite black-and-white illustrations throughout.

Recommended for readers ages 7-10 years old.


Published in Canada by HarperCollins

Download the teacher's guide from the publisher here.


Imagination Soup
Lost in a storm, with no home or destination, Mona the Mouse discovers a beautiful hotel for forest animals. There she works as a maid to earn her room and board. But more than that, she helps solve problems and learns about her family connection to the lovely hotel where she’s invited to stay as long as she wants. This is a sweet, warm-hearted adventure of resiliency and friendship. 

Publisher's Weekly
Seeking shelter in a storm, a mouse named Mona stumbles on the Heartwood Hotel, a swanky getaway for woodland animals located within a tree, then gets hired as a maid. In this compassionate and comforting first book in the Heartwood Hotel series, George (the Magical Animal Adoption Agency series) introduces a supremely cozy setting in the hideaway hotel and a well-developed cast of staffers and guests. Mona’s innate kindness goes a long way at an establishment whose motto is “We live by ‘protect and respect,’ not by ‘tooth and claw.’”

Irene Roth's Canadian Book Reviews
This is a wonderful middle grade novel for kids. It is a super-cute story, one that will transport kids to realms of magic and what it means to have a true home.

Carla Loves Store
This is a delightful story for late primary readers who are ready for more difficult chapter books… Children will be amused by the delightful world within this Hotel, as well as the many life lessons that Mona learns and teaches others along the way. The various animals at the hotel are all varied and have different talents and interests. The owner, a badger named Mr. Heartwood, is kind and generous to a fault. The guests all have different needs that must be taken care of. It is a wonderful cast of characters. There is some adventure, problem solving as well as a little danger. This would make a nice read aloud in a primary class where there is a chapter read each day with some good discussions to follow. I really like the ideas about friendship, class structure as well as facing your fears and helping your friends. There is also lessons about loss, self-confidence and to some degree bullying. It is not in your face, but the ideas are all there. A good addition to a school or class library.

The Little Crooked Cottage
We love reading chapter books aloud on summer nights in our house. Kallie George’s heartwarming first book in the Heartwood Hotel series is a perfect chapter-a-night read. Young readers will enjoy being be transported to the tiny woodland world where Mona the Mouse discovers the Heartwood Hotel while seeking shelter from a rainstorm. Mona is quickly welcomed into the fold—where a cast of characters, soft moss-lined beds, and a little adventure (and danger!) awaits. 

Mundie Kids
A cute woodland story about friendship, courage, overcoming challenges, and the true meaning of home.
Heartwood Hotel is an enjoyable read that takes readers into the heart of the woods, and introduces them to a variety of woodland animal (and a few insect characters too). With Graegin's illustrations (I love this cover), and George's storytelling, this story is one that will make you wish you could spend longer than the time it takes to read this book, with Mona and her woodland friends.

One of the things I really enjoyed about this story, is that it encompasses topics that young chapter book readers can understand. Like feeling lonely, feeling like you belong, finding new friends, doing your best despite feeling you're too small to do anything, friendship, jealously, helping others, and doing your best. Mona the mouse is a character who starts off feeling scared, lonely and a little insecure, and ends up finding she's brave, courageous, a good friend, and strong in knowing who she is.

Heartwood Hotel is a charming, enchanting woodland story. This is a great book to pick up for kids that are reading chapter books. It also makes for a great read aloud. We're looking forward to reading the next book in this adorable series.

Batch of Books
I can’t wait to tell you about the CUTEST new chapter book series! My two older girls and I all read the first two books in the Heartwood Hotel series by Kallie George and these books are ADORABLE.

These two books brought back so many happy memories of reading Old Mother West Wind, The Wind in the Willows, and writing my own stories. In all honesty, I fell hard in love with this series. These are happy, feel-good books that warm you from the inside out. The best part is that after she finished reading the books, I “borrowed” it from her and read them myself. We’ve been discussing the characters and how cute the stories are. Now, my nine-year-old says she needs to read them too.

Just One More Chapter
Heartwood Hotel, with the secret entrance hidden in a tree, a place of refuge for lost creatures of the wilderness, those that are easy prey for larger beasts of the woods. What an absolutely delightful little story, it reminded me of The Wind in the Willows and Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of Nimh.

With lovely penciled drawings scattered throughout I suggest either a print copy or reading in a tablet (sorry but a kindle won't do it justice).

Michigan Mom Living
The Heartwood Hotel series is comprised of adorable, cute early chapter books geared for ages 7-10 with it’s easy reading and visual penciled pictures along the way. Youngsters can read and engage themselves in this series as they follow Mona through her family tragedy and the hunt to find another home and friends and acceptance. In this series, there are a lot of life lessons of acceptance that young readers will capture along the way.

The Heartwood Hotel’s motto is: “We Live by Protect and Respect, Not by Tooth and Claw”, which the author thinks applies beyond the great tree’s rooms and will resonate with young readers and I agree!

I can easily see my 7-year old son enjoying this series if he reads by himself or if it’s a book we read nightly together. Either way, it will keep his interest.

Once Upon a Twilight
Heartwood Hotel is a sweet story that teaches that breaking rules for good and kind gestures isn't bad. Sometimes we will need to break the rules and do what's right. Mona wasn't scared to break these rules because she knew these fellow animals needed her help. She was kind and compassionate. We also learn that facing our fears and being brave is hard but at times we must face reality and our fears. Also, that working as a team many things can get accomplished.

Mona with fierce determination saves all the animals. She was home and she didn't want anyone or anything to be ruined. With her kindness, even the bear was willing to help! It shows that kindness can go a long way. And home is where the heart is.

Canlit for Little Canadians
How do I convey to readers the infinite sweetness and gentility of A True Home? From the warm-hearted atmosphere and compassionate mission of the Heartwood Hotel and its staff to the plot of finding home, amidst common foibles and uncommon dangers, Kallie George's text is rich in friendship, courtesy, diversity and affection. That majestic tree's hotel is built upon a solid foundation of respect for all creatures and the natural world of interrelationships, though as in the human world some need to be avoided if one is to survive. But even the wolves, though frightening to many of the residents at the Heartwood Hotel, have an inane quality about them, squabbling about their achievements and the existence of the Heartwood Hotel. By doing this, Kallie George makes A True Home a suitable read-aloud for younger children who will easily be able to imagine the Hotel with its miscellaneous accommodations (including the root floors with hibernation suites, trunk floors, branch floors, twig floors and honeymoon and penthouse suites) and star-gazing balcony and ballroom. Graced with the black-and-white pencil drawings of American illustrator Stephanie Graegin, Heartwood Hotel's first book, A True Home, has surely found a place for itself in youngCanLit by captivating and gladdening our own hearts.

I love a good forest story. I was enchanted by the (slightly weird) world of Beatrix Potter as a child and spent many hours imagining life in Toad Hall, Ratty's waterside home and Badger's complex burrow deep in the Wild Wood. I even created the label Forest Story to keep track of books in this genre I reviewed. And, while there aren't a lot of books that come along in the precise vein of Kenneth Grahame's The Wind in the Willows, Kallie George's new series, Heartwood Hotel, with charming illustrations by Stephanie Graegin, is a marvelous forest story with the kind of caring, friendship and community that you find in Grahame's book. And, be sure to check out the equally charming and wonderful Heartwood Hotel website for these books where you can learn more about the hotel (the staff, the menu, the rooms) and print out creative activities that let readers design a room for the hotel, create a menu and craft a miniature suitcase!

CM Review
4/4 stars
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.

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.

The Laughing Place Blogspot
The Heartwood Hotel series approaches emotions in a charming way, with previous books describing sad experiences as “hurts.” Aimed at readers in 2nd-5th grade, the series provides a great role model for dealing with strong feelings in thoughtful and rational ways. Despite being stories about animals, the series helps kids deal with their uniquely human feelings. Stephanie Graegin also returns to illustrate this third book, providing pencil drawings to help underscore key moments in the story and inspiring kids’ imaginations with this cuddly world. Her work has a quality that reminds me of E. H. Shepard’s drawings for A.A. Milne’s Winnie the Pooh series. While the book is at a reading level perfect for elementary school kids, the illustrations also make it easily accessible for parents to read to younger kids. The chapters are short, allowing kids to digest them at a pace they’re comfortable with. I was already a fan of the Heartwood Hotel series and really enjoyed revisiting this world a third time in Heartwood Hotel: Better Together.

Bottomless Book Bag review
This is a delightful and charming series for our youngest elementary students. Advanced readers in Kindergarten - second grade will love reading these books on their own. They are also great read alouds for the teachers and parents to share with their children. This series takes us through a year in the life of Mona the mouse who finds safety and then a new job as a maid in a large tree which is a Hotel for the small woodland creatures. She saves the day in each of the the three books I read. In the fall she makes friends with a bear who helps scare away the wolves. In the winter she discovers who is stealing their food supply and in the spring story she deals with an invasion of owls. The summer book isn't out until July. However, it looks like a wedding and a new guest who might be related to Mona are featured in the story.

Cherry Blossoms & Maple Syrup Blogspot
Heartwood Hotel is such a cute series, and this first book was such a delight. Mona is such a sweet little heroine who starts out homeless and then stumbles open a beautiful hotel in the forest. I wanted to cuddle Mona throughout the story because she is so kind, but is full of determination. She’s a great role model character for younger readers. Each character is so charming, though! I LOVED bossy Tilly, though she somewhat reminded me of my own mother. This first book is just so comfortable, warm and cozy. While there is some danger in the story, it’s nothing too frighting, but it teaches children about finding strength in unlikely situations and how friendship can help solve bigger problems. I also want to praise the illustrations by Stephanie Graegin, which I feel accompany the story so beautifully. I loved having the pictures side-by-side with the text, and I can only imagine how beautiful the artwork looks in the finished edition. This first book is so charming, and it’s definitely one I will be recommending to younger readers when the opportunity arises.

Satisfaction for Insatiable Readers Blogspot
An adorable addition to the growing Heartwood Hotel series with enough danger and excitement to keep it interesting, but a whole lot of the friendship and heart we've come to love. It was great visiting with old friends, enjoyable making new ones, and wonderful to see Mona settle in more at her new(ish) home. ]

Audrey's Books
Kallie George has created an absolutely charming and whimsical story. It is full of endearing characters that young children will love, along with some great life lessons, too. She deals with bravery, compassion and self-esteem and of course the power of friendship. This book is perfect for kids who are reading early chapter books but looking for something just a little more difficult. And as my eight-year-old can attest, it makes a great read aloud! — Kelly Dyer, Manager/Children’s Buyer

Jean Little Library Blogspot
Mona Mouse has been through a lot in the first two titles of the Heartwood Hotel series. She's found a new home and friends, helped save the hotel from disaster, and solved exciting mysteries. But now she and the entire hotel are facing a brand-new challenge: Mr. Heartwood is taking a vacation! Graegin's art is as cozy and adorable as ever, with delicate drawings of anxious robin parents and their egg, arguing frog and raccoon bands, and the squabbling fireflies and bees. There aren't many of this type of cozy story anymore, but I have a ready audience for them at my library. There are no flashy magic spells, exciting acts of courage, or sudden revelations, but Mona's quiet little world is very appealing to readers who like cozy, comforting stories. Her daily trials and tribulations as she struggles to fit into her small world, as well as the adorable miniature art pieces that fill the book, are relatable to many of my small patrons. They are a little challenging for beginning chapter readers who aren't yet fluent, but dearly loved by younger readers with a high degree of fluency and vocabulary who aren't yet ready for more mature middle grade titles. Verdict: I have several readers eagerly awaiting the latest in this series and I strongly recommend it as an addition to any library collection that is trying to meet the needs of this community of readers.

Orange Marmalade Books Review
This is the third episode in a darling series set in the Heartwood Hotel, a lovely woodland resort nestled in an enormous tree and catering to birds and insects, squirrels and skunks, voles and porcupines.... Just the right mix of imaginative, miniature worlds and zesty adventure make this series perfect for reading aloud to 5 & 6 year olds, handing to an advanced-but-young reader, or enjoyed in the hammock by kids who prefer their fiction more charming than spine-tingling.

YA & Kids Book Central
Readers will cheer for these kind, brave, beloved characters as they embark on their next adventure in the third book of the charmingly illustrated Heartwood Hotel series.

Books 4 Your Kids
Having worked with kid's books for 25 years now, I can tell you that series like this are rare. The Heartwood Hotel books bring to life the the charming creativity of an anthropomorphized community of woodland creatures, balancing it with the unpredictable dangers of life in the natural world.

Meridian Magazine
Heartwood Hotel, by Kallie George, and beautifully illustrated by Stephanie Graegin, is one of my favorite early chapter book series about a tiny mouse, named Mona, and her dwelling. There have been three books published so far and each of the stories are richly told and full of adventure and learning about friendship. Each of these books would be wonderful to read out loud.

San Franciso Book Review
Author Kallie George has written another enchanting book [Better Together] in the Heartwood Hotel series that will delight young readers. The characters are fully-formed and as believable as animal characters can be. The charming illustrations by Stephanie Graegin support the story perfectly. Each book in this series easily stands on its own, but they, as a group, will keep young readers reading for days on end.

Dad of Divas
This is a really sweet book about friendship, courage and community. The reader will become involved with the characters challenges, pasts, and how they overcome issues with the other animals at the hotel.

Such a wonderful chapter book for a child to read independently or for a child and parent to read together.

There is adventure and finding trust. There is problem solving and using their instincts. The animals work together to keep Heartwood Hotel and its guests safe and happy.

Awards and recognition

Junior Library Guild Selection

A Silver Birch Express Award Honour Book

Chosen for Cypress-Fairbanks Independent School District's Horned Toad Tale list (2018-2019)

Nominated for a BC Book Prize 2018

Shining Willow nominated title 

Florida SSYRA Book Award Nominee 2018-2019

CCBC Best Books for Kids & Teens: Starred Selection

Nominated for the Surrey Schools Fiction Book of the Year, 2018-19