Greenglass House by Kate Milford
- Age Range: 9 – 12 years
- Grade Level: 5 – 7
- Series: Greenglass House (Book 1)
- Print Length: 400 pages
I loved this book. Kate Milford does a stunning job of writing an mystery tale that is entertaining, and kept me feeling like I could have solved the mystery if I was as quick witted as Milo, the main character. The best thing I can say is as I was reading this book couldn’t wait to finish it to find out what happens, but I also didn’t want it to be over.
The story takes place in Nagaspeak, a quaint little sea side town that is has a history of being home to smugglers. Greenglass House is a creaky old inn with a past as colorful as its stunning green stained glass windows. The story start on the first night of twelve-year-old Milo’s first night of winter break. A time of year that should just be him and his family because it’s the off season.
“But on the first icy night of vacation, out of nowhere, the guest bell rings. Then rings again. And again. Soon Milo’s home is bursting with odd, secretive guests, each one bearing a strange story that is somehow connected to the rambling old house. As objects go missing and tempers flare, Milo and Meddy, the cook’s daughter, must decipher clues and untangle the web of deepening mysteries to discover the truth about Greenglass House—and themselves.”
Why This Book Is Amazing
There really is so much to love about this book. One of my favorite aspects of this book is how the adults and parents are incorporated into the story. In children’s literature parents get in the way. They are too often represented as dead, or so oblivious to what the kid is doing that they might as well not be there at all. I get it. And usually I’m absolutely willing to suspend my disbelief and just follow the kids on a great adventure.
On this topic, Greenglass House is a breath of fresh air. The relationship between Milo and his parents is positive, healthy, and plausible. Milo’s parents are around, they clearly love him and want to spend more time with him. They are also kept busy dealing with the unexpected influx of guests and the crazy brought on by a huge winter storm. But Milo’s relationship with his parents isn’t all sugar-sweet. He is adopted (adopted at birth, not a tragic orphan Annie finds a home with Daddy Warbucks adoption) and struggles with wanting to know more about his birth parents, and often wonders if this is betraying his mom and dad.
The bulk of the book is spent following Milo and Meddy around the house as they play their own version of a role-playing game. Some reviewers complained about Meddy’s insistence on the game which Milo initially struggles with. As a kid, I struggled with imagination so this felt completely natural to me. Honestly is part of Milo’s character arc. Milo likes this clean and in specific places. He has a large attention to detail and dislikes change. He is anxious and quiet, but as his game character, “Negret” a blackjack escaladeur or spy, Milo can be anything he wants. Meddy explains, “…it’s a character. It’s a different version of you. In the game, it helps to think of being different from you that lives in the real world.” We see Milo struggling with the game in the beginning but growing more confident and trusting himself to be Negret and find the missing items.
I found the rest of the guests at the inn to be well rounded enough to keep them interesting, but not so much that they steal the show. Each person had their own secrets, their own agenda and Milo had to interact with the adults too get the information he needed with out being rude or pushy.
Things this book could have done better
As a reviewer I want to be honest and tell you the good with the bad about any given book. A goal that is hard with Greenglass Hoouse because I found nothing wrong with the story, the writing, or the experience of reading the book.
So I read a bunch of reviews to see what other people’s struggles were and I’ve listed them here with my reasons why I disagree.
A few people suggested the pacing was a bit slow especially at the beginning of the book. I had no problem getting invested in the world. Actions and interruptions in Milo’s life occur very early in the book. Before I could get bored there was something new for Milo to discover.
A couple of other Amazon Reviews suggested the twist ending gave the story a dark turn out of left field. I don’t want to spoil the end, so I’m not going to explain specifics, but it seemed to me that the reviewers who disliked the end seemed to apply too much logic to the final explanation. I feel like Greenglass House took me on an adventure and while maybe the end was a little fantastical, and certainly had a twist, it didn’t feel impossible to me. If felt like a climax that answered questions, but also left me thinking about how the author wove in clues to the truth that didn’t even feel like clues when I read them.
Who should read this book?
The recommended grades are 5-7, and I can agree with that. Aside from a few challenging words there is nothing content wise that wouldn’t be appropriate for even a third or fourth grader, either by themselves (if they are an advanced enough reader) or as a bedtime read by a parent. Certainly nothing harder than the first Harry Potter book.
Greenglass House is a wonderful cozy mystery with an intrepid 12-year-old saving the day while still feeling like a 12-year-old. Not like a mini adult. I found it to be a page-turner that I couldn’t read fast enough and that I also didn’t want to end. I can’t wait to get my hands on the next book in the series. Go read it. You won’t be disappointed.
Teachers & Homeschoolers
If you are a teacher, home school parent, or just trying to get through quarantine and want to have a more educational conversation about Greenglass House, then you should check out this PDF. Developed by Alyssa Morgan, Youth Services Librarian at the library in Martinsville Indiana.
The three-page PDF has some book talk questions, suggests similar books by other authors and has some language arts activities with standards for those of you who create lesson plans. There is also a list of challenging words your 5^th^ grader will likely have too look up, including what page the word can be found on.