Greenglass House, by Kate Milford--a lovely Christmas time read

If you are looking for a lovely book to read aloud with your young ones (as in, 8-14 year olds) in front of the fire this Christmastime, Greenglass House, by Kate Milford (Clarion, middle grade, August 2014, 373 pp*) is an excellent choice.   So excellent that even though my suitcase is already heavy with books, I am taking it with us to grandma's house so that I can keep on reading it to my own boys.

Greenglass House is an inn perched high on a hill above a riverside town that's been a haven for smugglers for years and years.  And many of them have been guests at Greenglass House....But now it is Christmas vacation, and young Milo, whose parents own the inn, is looking forward to a peaceful time with no visitors at all. 

Ha.  One by one, an assortment of guests make their way through the snowy night to Greenglass House.  Each one thought they would be the only guest.  Each one has a secret.   And each secret has a connection to the history of the house....and one secret is deadly. 

As the snow keeps falling outside, the guests share stories, each adding a piece to the puzzle.  And Milo, with the help of Meddie, a girl his own age, who's shown up along with the extra helpers from the town, is determined to put the puzzle together.   Meddie convinces Milo to make it a game of Odd Trails--a role-playing fantasy adventure.  Given confidence by his new identity as a Blackjack (with its concomitant slate of abilities useful for a thief and a clue-hunter), and added and abetted by Meddie in her own role as semi-spirit character, Milo sets to work....

One story leads to another, and in the telling and finding and living of the stories Milo finds that there were secrets to Greenglass House he could never have dreamt of.

I sold this to my own children as a fantastical Westing Game like-story--the largish cast of characters, each with a mystery, gathered together against their will, reminded me strongly of that one.   It is different, of course, being really truly magical (thought the reader doesn't find our that part of the story till close to the end).    And it's different as well in its focus on one character, Milo, who's grappling with the story of his own adoption (from China) and identity alongside the external questions.  That being said, Meddy, though essentially a sidekick, is a lovely character in her own right!

There's a touch of the quirkily surreal (what with the smugglers and some of the character's backstories, as well as the role-playing game that Milo and Meddy are playing) that might not be to everyone's taste, and it's a bit slow to start, perhaps--a lot of people have to arrive--but once things get going, they go just beautifully.  The result is a rich, lovely story that's one of my personal favorites of the year. 

This is partly because I love old house stories, and this is a gorgeous one--stained glass, for instance, is important to the story, and there is also the sort of attic that is a dream come true for readers who like attics full of Stuff.  It's also because I loved Milo and Meddy (Milo's parents are lovely too, and it is a nice treat to have caring, present parents in a middle grade fantasy!).  And it's also because of the layers of story within story building up on each other, as the snow builds up outside and Christmas gets closer.....

*I put the number of pages in because Amazon inexplicably says it has only 176, which is rather misleading.....


  1. Oh, it's good to hear that this one works as a read-aloud: I was worried that it might be too slow to start (as you noted), or too long to finish. I also loved Milo and Meddy, and the rpg they play. A gorgeous book!

  2. I really like the sound of this, I picked it up to read after the holidays. Now I'm looking forward to it even more.

  3. I was going to wait for this one until I'd found and read the sequel to The Boneshaker, but you make Greenglass House sound so appealing that I might just have to pick it up.

  4. This does sound lovely. And books about old houses are the best. That would be a good list to make!


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