A True Home by Author has been reviewed by Focus on the Family’s marriage and parenting magazine. It is the first book in the “Heartwood Hotel” series.
Mona the mouse has lost her home in a flood. Seeking shelter, she comes upon a door hidden in a tree. It leads to the elite Heartwood Hotel. A party is underway, and the hotel is booked solid. The kind proprietor, a badger named Mr. Heartwood, offers to give Mona lodging for the night if she’ll help clean up after the event.
Mona is assigned to work with Tilly the squirrel, who is rude from the outset. Mona doesn’t understand Tilly’s behavior, but she does her best to help. She sleeps in Tilly’s room, which also makes the squirrel unhappy.
Mona is charmed by the fancy forest hotel, which provides a haven for small animals and birds. The staff caters to the unique needs of the different species, providing special food and bedding and fulfilling guests’ personal requests. Although Tilly is anxious to get Mona out the door the next morning, Mr. Heartwood invites Mona to stay on for the busy season ahead.
Mona is told not to speak to the guests unless they speak to her first. Tilly leaves her to clean the honeymoon suite where skunks Lord and Lady Sudsbury will soon be checking in. When they arrive early and find Mona scrubbing the tub, the startled Lord Sudsbury sprays.
They fear Mr. Heartwood will evict them because of the smell. The quick-thinking Mona gets peppermint leaves from the garden and helps alleviate the scent. Mona also befriends Miss Cybele, a bird whose broken wing caused her to be separated from her flock on their migratory flight. She listens to the bird’s sad tale and discovers Miss Cybele has a lovely voice. Mona encourages Miss Cybele to sing for the staff and guests.
Guests panic when the security woodpecker reports bear sightings nearby. Mr. Heartwood assures them they’re safe. Then they hear the bear pounding on the front door. At any moment, he could hit the secret button and get inside. Mona wonders if the bear is simply confused, not harmful. She sneaks out the front door and talks to him. The bear’s name is Brumble. He’s an elderly bear who got turned around while looking for his hibernation den. Mona gets him home, and soon the guests feel safe again.
The staff prepares for a big party called First Snow Festival. They’re disappointed when the Newtons, who always book the penthouse for the event, cancel. Mona is watching the front desk for Giles the lizard when a June bug, Ms. J, requests a room. Ms. J is a little abrupt and seems to be logging their conversation in a notebook. Giles is furious when he hears about the booking, since Mona has unknowingly broken the hotel’s “no bug” rule. Tilly gloats about Mona’s error and says the mouse will be fired for sure. Rather than face Mr. Heartwood’s wrath, Mona decides to leave on her own.
Mona trudges through the forest looking for shelter. She overhears a pack of wolves talking about the Heartwood Hotel. They’ve heard tasty animals of all kinds stay there, and they’re determined to find it. They know the hotel lights up a tree for the First Snow Festival, so they only need to find the lights.
Mona waits until the wolves are sleeping so she can sneak past them undetected. She rushes back to the hotel to tell the staff what she’s learned. Mr. Heartwood decides they must cancel the festival. He assembles the unhappy guests and tries not to alarm them.
Mona is sad because she realizes small animals are always stuck running and hiding. She doesn’t want to do it anymore. She gets an idea. With the help of some other volunteers, Mona hauls lights into the forest. She awakens Brumble the bear and asks for his help. They decorate his tree instead of the Heartwood Hotel tree. When the wolves attack the lighted tree, Brumble promptly sends them fleeing into the woods.
With the wolves far away, the Heartwood guests can have their festival. Mr. Heartwood tells Mona he believes her parents once spent some time at the hotel and convinced him to change its name to Heartwood. Mr. Heartwood presents Mona with her own hotel key in front of the staff and guests.
Ms. J reveals that she is the reviewer for a popular newspaper called the Pinecone Press. The Heartwood staff has long wished for a review in this publication. Ms. J said she wasn’t sure the hotel would welcome her at first, but she has had a wonderful stay. Mr. Heartwood assures her that guests big and small are welcome. He even asks her to be a consultant as they make bug-friendly renovations to the hotel.
Mona and Tilly have a heartfelt conversation. Tilly explains that she lost her family as they were headed to the Heartwood for a vacation. Mr. Heartwood gave her a job, and she finally felt safe again. She was rude because she feared Mona would take her place. Mona puts her paw on Tilly’s and they laugh together as the snow begins to fall. Mona looks forward to many more years at the Heartwood Hotel.
Mr. Heartwood is a kind, generous man who often gives free or discounted lodging to people in need. Keeping his guests safe from larger animals is his top priority. He changes to his policies and facilities so smaller animals will feel welcome.
Partying: A group of squirrels has an annual convention. They always party all night and drink lots of malted honey. This makes the flying squirrels start soaring down the stairways.
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