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Friday, November 21, 2014

"Greenglass House" by Kate Milford (Reviewed by Cindy Hannikman)

Visit Kate Milford's Official Website Here

OVERVIEW: A rambling old inn, a strange map, an attic packed with treasures, squabbling guests, theft, friendship, and an unusual haunting mark this smart middle grade mystery in the tradition of the Mysterious Benedict Society books and Blue Balliet's Chasing Vermeer series.

It's wintertime at Greenglass House. The creaky smuggler's inn is always quiet during this season, and twelve-year-old Milo, the innkeepers' adopted son, plans to spend his holidays relaxing. 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.

FORMAT: Greenglass House is a stand-alone children's novel. It is a mystery with some supernatural elements thrown in. It stands at 384 pages and was published August 26, 2014 by Clarion Books.

ANALYSIS: When I was in middle school, one of my favorite books was The Westing Game. I can't really tell you what caused me to become obsessed with it, but I must have read that book a half dozen times in the span of a year. And when our class read it as a group, I was thrilled.

While many children's books over the years have tried to match the excitement and mystery that The Westing Game had, they did not come close. That was until Greenglass House came along.

Greenglass House tells the story of a very old smugglers inn that just happens to be Milo's home. The novel starts as Milo and his family are preparing for a nice Christmas break together as a family, as traditionally no guests come to the inn. Unfortunately, plans go astray when a mysterious guest arrives and requests to stay at the inn. And that individual isn't the only one who makes a surprise visit to the inn. Several other odd, yet loveable guests arrive too.

It quickly becomes apparent that these mysterious guests, while seemingly random, are not so random. All the guests appear to know each other, but are reluctant to step forward and share their connection. This leads to a fun mystery that Milo and his new friend, Meddy, work to solve.

There are numerous aspects of Greenglass House that I loved and there were some aspects that I couldn't stand. I'll start with the good.

I love that Greenglass House is essentially a winter book. Kate Milford does a wonderful job of creating a snowy, wintery wonderland. It isn't magical, but it is so realistic that I honestly expected to put down the book and have my entire yard filled with snow – I read the book in October, so snow in October was a long shot!

The winter setting isn't the only thing that comes to life – the entire Greenglass House inn comes to life. Again, Milford does a magnificent job of creating an inn, describing it in realistic terms, and just making readers feel as if they are actually right inside that inn.

Another aspect that is truly amazing about Greenglass House is how everything is wrapped up so nice and neatly by the end of the novel. Within the first few chapters, there seemed to be so much going on and it was hard to see how it was all connected or could be connected. When I finished the book, it all came together and I was extremely happy with how it all turned out.

Unfortunately, for everything that is good with this book, there is something that wasn't so great. First, the pacing of the book. Greenglass House moves at a painfully slow pace. There is very little action or even surprise elements. It is mostly just people chugging along, introducing themselves, and wandering around. If you can deal with the slow pacing, the book is great, but I struggled with the novel and almost gave up at the halfway point.

Another aspect of the novel that I wasn't a huge fan of was the whole roleplaying aspect. Milo and Meddy start playing a roleplaying game that is similar to Dungeons and Dragons – only with a different name. I felt this whole aspect of the book was being played out for the nostalgic value it held to the author and not because it added to the book.

The roleplaying takes up a lot of the book. The characters spend a lot of time explaining the game, talking about the fictional characters in the game, creating characters, and just playing the game. While this does play a small role in the novel, I found the huge focus on this part really slowed the novel down. For a faced paced novel, this would have worked, but the novel was already so slow that it hurt it.

Finally, while Greenglass House is a nice read, I honestly think it is one of those books that are intended more for adults than children. The writing is certainly at a level a middle school child could read and understand, but I think the structure of the book, the slower pace, and rather adult issues that many of the characters are facing (lost love, a love triangle, possibility of smuggling illegal goods)  really make it more of an adult book.

Overall, I enjoyed Greenglass House. It didn’t come close to The Westing Game but it sure tried. If you can stand the slower pace and are up to a challenge, this is a good book. It is definitely one of the stronger books of 2014.


jenclair said...

I love the cover and the idea of a smuggler's inn. I'm adding this one to my list of possible Christmas gifts to my grandchildren. Possible, because you do have some reservations, and I'll have to read it first to decide.

One of my favorite books that I read to my kids was The Westing Game. Thanks for the reminder--I definitely have to get a copy or two for the grands. Another favorite was The Egypt Game by Zilpha Keatley Snyder.

Anonymous said...

I just finished the Greenglass House. I agree and concur it being more an adult read than youngster. It was a terribly slow paced book, but for some reason I could not stop reading it though I almost did several times.

After putting as much time into as I did I was glad for the ending... at least it ended well.

Anonymous said...

I've just finished reading the Greenglass House last night, it was a great book. At first I thought I wouldn't like it but s I went in it just got better and better. I would definitely recommend to a friend.


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