Kate Milford’s Greenglass House is a brilliant middle grade mystery that young readers will love. Reviewers and kidlit critics (and I humbly) concur: This is a book that ticks all the boxes.
√ Seriously. Try and beat this combination: a once-grand hotel whose clientele was and still is mostly smugglers and other nefarious types, a snow-muffled, wintry day with more arctic weather beating a path straight for them, a cliff that overlooks a winding waterway with access via a cable trolley from the bottom of the slope. Curl up with this book, and you’ll swear you hear the tick of old radiators, the crackle of the fire, and the distant howl of winds.
√ Milo Pine is quirky and clever, though prone to panic attacks. His new friend Meddy is gutsy and fun. An odd band of guests turn up despite the inclement weather, and it’s no coincidence…
A Cool Old House
√ Truly old-world with fireplaces, wood panelling, grand staircases with creaky steps, and stained glass feature windows. Greenglass House is eclectic and full of mysterious potential.
A Strange Map
√ This one turns up in the snow when the visitors arrive and–as most mysterious maps do–throws the story into gear.
√ In my opinion, it’s not a good kids’ mystery unless there’s an attic or other such liminal space. This attic happens to hold generations of treasures–including costumes, props, and (of course) clues!
A Puzzle to Solve
√ Well, it wouldn’t be a mystery without a problem, missing bits, clues, and suspicious behaviour, would it? Greenglass House has the necessary whodunit elements by the bucket load. Good thing our hyper-vigilant hero is observant and smart.
√ Adopted from China, Milo experiences the understandable but confusing daydreams about his biological parents. His new friend Meddy’s roleplaying game offers him a handy way of working through identity questions while facing his fears and overcoming his anxiety.
√ Kate Milford’s writing includes pretty words like raconteur, blandishment, and puissance. Take a moment to let those luscious morsels tingle on your tongue. I love that she doesn’t shy away from “big words” just because her readers are young. No–she shares with them her esteem for language and joy for storytelling. More about Kate can be found on her website.
√ While the mystery unfolds and tension mounts around Milo, a heart-warming transformation happens inside him. He discovers and begins to appreciate his strengths and talents.
A Fabulous Cover
√√ Confession Time: I bought Greenglass House because I *had*to*have*that*beautiful*book. Yes, the story itself ticked all my boxes–creaky old house, attic adventures, quirky characters–but that beautiful cover completely ensorcelled me. I pretty much threw my money at the bookseller.
The lettering is divine; the snow and wind, the eerie shades of green, the wacky purple endpapers! It’s a sublime product, and it’s the work of artist Jaime Zollars. Check out her artwork on her website and the story of the Greenglass House cover here.
2014 National Book Award – Young People’s Literature category – Longlisted
2015 Edgars – Best Juvenile Mystery category – Nominee
Every spring the Mystery Writers of America present the Edgars, the big boy of prizes in the mystery genre. The past winners’ list includes names like Ellery Queen, John Le Carré, Ken Follett, Ruth Rendell, and P D James. The 2015 winners will be announced on the 29th of April. Good luck to Kate Milford for her wonderful book.