Greenglass House by Kate Milford
Step 1: Purchase Greenglass House. Go to your local indie bookstore or click on the link and order it, but it’s best to own it. That way you can read it at the perfect moment and not worry about library fines or hoping your hold comes in. Also, you can then re-read it whenever the mood strikes.
Step 2: Lay in provisions. You will absolutely need hot cocoa. Probably some whipped cream, the real kind if you can manage it, not the spray kind in a can. Maybe marshmallows. Possibly a cake? But certainly nothing with blue frosting.
Step 3: Prepare your reading nook. Ideally, you will have stained glass windows and a high backed loveseat. But if that’s not possible, aim for a cozy chair or sofa. Maybe near the fire, but ideally also near a large window. You may want a candle, or better yet, an old fashioned lantern nearby just in case.
Step 4: Wait. If it is at all possible, arrange for a pre-Christmas blizzard. A snow day would be ideal. Really, any snow day. Trust me, this would be an amazing way to spend one, either curled up alone or as family read aloud. IF you live in a part of the world where it does not snow, arrange a vacation to a ski lodge or the like. If that is impossible, turn up your air conditioning and bribe someone to sprinkle shredded toilet paper around you while you read.
Step 5: Read! Greenglass House is part mystery, part scavenger hunt and thoroughly engaging. Milo is ready for a quiet Christmas holiday with his parents when unexpected guests begin to turn out at their inn, Greenglass House. It’s certainly curious that so many people have come at once and Milo’s definitely wondering about the mysterious map he’s found, but once they discover there’s a thief in their midst, things really get interesting.
Greenglass House is truly special. Milo manages to have his adventures while living in his own home with two parents who love him very dearly. In books, far too often parents are either killed off or woefully absent in order to give children the freedom to explore. It’s great to see an example where a kid can be loved, taken care of and never really outside of his parents’ care but still manages some excitement! Milo is also a great character. He’s adopted, which comes up frequently, but this book is not about finding a pat solution to his adoption story (I’ll admit, I worried periodically, but Milford did not let me down). Milo also has some issues with anxiety. It’s clearly part of his daily life, but it doesn’t define him, it’s one of his many characteristics.
Age Recommendation: Grades 3 and up. On the surface this should be a scary story. There’s a mystery, some sabotage, smugglers and a ghost story. At one point weapons are drawn and people are in danger. There is some violence, drama and death, but most of it takes place in the past. Despite everything the tone just isn’t dark and threatening. It’s fun and exciting! The hardest thing for readers will be the fact that two characters are playing a game which requires they create new names for themselves. These sobriquets are used interchangeably with their own names sometimes within the same page. Less experienced readers may find this to be too complicated.
Sex, Nudity, Dating – A story is told about two people who fall in love with the same person. A couple holds hands.
Profanity – “heck”, “hell” at least twice, “darn”, “crap,” “good God”,
Death, Violence and Gore – There’s a mention of swords in a game-playing sense. Meddy speculates that a trap that decapitates you could be set, but this idea is deemed ridiculous. In a story Milo reads a cat is sacrificed. We are told the cat is about to be killed and then later it says “when all that was left of the cat were its bones”. A smuggler was supposedly captured and killed when Milo’s mom was little. A man died under suspicious circumstances in the past. A man with a knife was looking for someone (again, this happens in the past, so there’s no real worry for current characters). An illustration shows someone holding two knifes. A man was beaten, tortured for information (also something that took place in the past). A man pulls a gun on a group of people. A character’s mother died when that character was young. A few people died in the past, one both by falls.
Drugs, Alcohol and Smoking – A character smokes a pipe. Adults are offered whiskey in case they would like a hot toddy. A woman (who is referred to as a girl, but seems to be an adult) drinks whiskey in her coffee. Another character smokes a cigarette.
Frightening or Intense Things – Milo’s mom tells a ghost story which of course, includes ghosts, one of whom was a child. <spoiler>A character is a ghost. </spoiler>