Friday, February 23, 2018

Heartwood Hotel: Better Together by Kallie George, illustrated by Stephanie Graegin

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! The staff are anxious to keep the hotel running smoothly in Mr. Heartwood's absence, but more and more obstacles keep falling in their path. Meanwhile, Mona is fighting her own battles as she starts to feel left out by her friend Tilly the squirrel, whose attention is all on her newly-found brother Henry. In fact, Mona starts to feel that everyone's attention is on Henry. Does anyone even need her anymore? She'll have to find all her courage, kindness, and heart when disaster strikes the hotel.

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. Mona is still her own sweet self, but her bad case of the grumps, brought on by her worries over her place in Heartwood Hotel, are shown in her anxious face and miserable arguments with Tilly.

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.

ISBN: 9781484746400; Published 2018 by Disney-Hyperion; ARC provided by publisher; Purchased for the library

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