The Greenglass House by Kate Milford (Clarion Books, 2014)
Reviewed by Mollie Mulligan, Library Assistant Youth Services
When you work as a youth services librarian you often feel like the proverbial kid in a candy shop. Almost every day a cart (librarian lingo: “truck”) of new books arrives and you are required to look through each book before it can go out into circulation for the general public. Kate Milford’s The Greenglass House called to me like the siren’s song to a weary pirate when it arrived. Wow! IT DID NOT DISAPPOINT! This is exactly the kind of book I would have loved as a child and loved almost more as an adult because it took me right back to the pure joy of a great story, rich characters and a take-me-there-now setting.
Milo’s parents are the owners of Greenglass House, a cliff top inn for smugglers. Just as they are snuggling in for a quiet Christmas break alone they are stunned to hear the bell ring. Suddenly a stream of guests, each one more peculiar than the next, brings a string of mysteries. Milo and the cook’s daughter, Meddy, fill their days trying to piece together clues and answer these perplexing questions: Where are the stolen items? What are the unusual symbols they keep stumbling upon? Why did all of these people show up in the middle of a blizzard? Why is it that they all seem connected somehow? And when are they leaving?!?
From start to finish this is a well detailed book. The setting is intriguing and so well flushed out that there is even a Board of Tourism website for the fictional city. The characters are lusciously developed – some more sympathetic than others, of course – and kids will readily identify with Milo. From his disappointment over losing a quiet Christmas, to some mild insecurity about his abilities, kids will definitely relate. I particularly love how the author, Kate Milford, delicately interweaves Milo’s feelings about being adopted. She allows Milo to be a typical twelve-year-old who also happens to be curious about his birth parents and frustrated by everyone commenting on his family’s racial mix. As with any good adventure story, there are not one, but TWO big twists at the end that will keep kids of all ages up at night reading by flashlight after the lights go out!
Part Agatha Christie-style country house mystery and part ghost story, this is a tale of intrigue and adventure that will delight all readers. I enthusiastically recommend The Greenglass House to middle grade (4th -7th grade) readers who have enjoyed Mysterious Benedict Society, Rooftoppers, and Escape from Mr. Lemoncello’s Library. Kids and adults should put a hold on this book ASAP! I’m off to read Kate Milford’s first book, Boneshaker.
Kate Milford is the author of The Boneshaker and The Broken Lands, as well as the companion novellas, The Kairos Mechanism and Bluecrown. She has also written several plays, screenplays, and an assortment of scholarly articles on subjects as diverse as self-aware ironmongery and how to make saltwater taffy in a haunted kitchen. She lives in Brooklyn. Read her awesome blog, The Clockwork Foundry.
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