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Greenglass House #1

Greenglass House

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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.

384 pages, Hardcover

First published August 26, 2014

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About the author

Kate Milford

14 books932 followers

Originally from Annapolis, MD, Kate now lives in Brooklyn, NY with her husband Nathan and son Griffin and their dogs, Ed and Sprocket. She has written for stage and screen and is a frequent travel columnist for the Nagspeake Board of Tourism and Culture (www.nagspeake.com).

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 3,512 reviews
Profile Image for Betsy.
Author 8 books2,738 followers
June 18, 2014
When I was a kid I had a real and abiding love of Agatha Christie. This would be around the time when I was ten or eleven. It wasn’t that I was rejecting the mysteries of the children’s book world. I just didn’t have a lot to choose from there. Aside from The Westing Game or supernatural ghostly mysteries sold as Apple paperbacks through the Scholastic Book Fair, my choices were few and far between. Kids today have it better, but not by much. Though the Edgar Awards for best mystery fiction do dedicate an award for young people’s literature, the number of honestly good mystery novels for the 9-12 set you encounter in a given year is minimal. When you find one that’s really extraordinary you want to hold onto it. And when it’s Kate Milford doing the writing, there’s nothing for it but to enjoy the ride. A raconteur’s delight with a story that’ll keep ‘em guessing, this is one title you won’t want to miss.

It was supposed to be winter vacation. Though Milo’s parents run an inn with a clientele that tends to include more than your average number of smugglers, he can always count on winter vacation to be bereft of guests. Yet in spite of the awful icy weather, a guest appears. Then another. Then two more. All told more than five guests appear with flimsy excuses for their arrival. Some seem to know one another. Others act suspiciously. And when thefts start to take place, Milo and his new friend Meddy decide to turn detective. Yet even as they unravel clues about their strange clientele there are always new ones to take their places. Someone is sabotaging the Greenglass House but it’s the kids who will unmask the culprit.

To my mind, Milford has a talent that few authors can boast; She breaks unspoken rules. Rules that have been dutifully followed by children’s authors for years on end. And in breaking them, she creates stronger books. Greenglass House is just the latest example. To my mind, three rules are broken here. Rule #1: Children’s books must mostly be about children. Adults are peripheral to the action. Rule #2: Time periods are not liquid. You cannot switch between them willy-nilly. Rule #3: Parents must be out of the picture. Kill ‘em off or kidnap them or make them negligent/evil but by all means get rid of them! To each of these, Milford thumbs her proverbial nose.

Let’s look at Rule #1 first. It is worth noting that with the exception of our two young heroes, the bulk of the story focuses on adults with adult problems. It has been said (by me, so take this with a grain of salt) that by and large the way most authors chose to write about adults for children is to turn them into small furry animals (Redwall, etc.). There is, however, another way. If you have a small innocuous child running hither and thither, gathering evidence and spying all the while, then you can talk about grown-ups for long periods of time and few child readers are the wiser. If I keep mentioning The Westing Game it’s because Ellen Raskin did very much what Milford is doing here, and ended up with a classic children’s book in the process. So there’s certainly a precedent.

On to Rule #2. One of the remarkable things about Kate Milford as a writer is that she can set a book in the present day (there is a mention of televisions in this book, so we can at least assume it’s relatively recent) and then go and fill it with archaic, wonderful, outdated technology. A kind of alternate contemporary steampunk, if there is such a thing. In an era of electronic doodads, child readers are going to really get a kick out of a book where mysterious rusted keys, old doorways, ancient lamps, stained green glass windows, and other old timey elements give the book a distinctive flavor.

Finally, Rule #3. This was the most remarkable of choices on Milford’s part, and I kept reading to book to find out how she’d get away with it. Milo’s parents are an active part of his life. They clearly care for him, periodically checking up on his throughout the story, but never interfering with his investigations. Since the book is entirely set in the Greenglass House, it has the feel of a stage play (which, by the way, it would adapt to BRILLIANTLY). That means you're constantly running into mom and dad, but they don't feel like they're hovering. This is partly aided by the fact that they’re incredibly busy. So, in a way, Milford has discovered a way of removing parental involvement without removing parental care. The kids are free to explore and solve crimes and the adult gatekeepers reading this book are comforted by the family situation. A rarity if ever there was one.

But behind all the clues and ghost stories and thefts and lies what Greenglass House really is is the story of a hero’s journey. Milo starts out a soft-spoken kiddo with little faith in his own abilities. Donning the mantle of a kind of Dungeons & Dragons type character named Negret, he taps into a strength that he might otherwise not known he even had. There is a moment in the book when Milo starts acting with more confidence and actually thinks to himself, “And I didn’t even have to use Negret’s Irresistible Blandishment . . . I just did it.” Milo’s slow awakening to his own strengths and abilities is the heart of the novel. For all that people will discuss the mystery and the clues, it’s Milo that holds everything together.

Much of his personality is embedded in his identity as an adopted kid too. I love the mention of “orphan magic” that Milford makes at one point. It’s the idea that when something is sundered from its attachments it becomes more powerful in the process. At no point does Milford ever downplay the importance of the fact that Milo is adopted. It isn’t a casual fact that’s thrown in there and then forgotten. For Milo, the fact that he was adopted is part of who he is as a person. And coming to terms with that is part of his journey as well. Little wonder that he gathers such comfort from learning about orphan magic and its potential.

I’m looking at my notes about this book and I see I’ve written down little random facts that don’t really fit in with this review. Things like, “I did wonder if Milo’s name was a kind of unspoken homage to the Milo of The Phantom Tollbooth. And, “The book’s attitude towards smuggling is not all that different from, say, Danny Champion of the World’s attitude towards poaching.” And, “I love the vocabulary at work here. Raconteur. Puissance.” There is a lot a person can say about this book. I should note that there is a twist that a couple kids may see coming. It is, however, a fair twist and one that doesn’t cheat before you get to it. For the most part, Milford does a divine job at writing a darned good mystery without sacrificing character development and deeper truths. A great grand book for those kiddos who like reading books that make them feel smart. Fun fun fun fun fun.

For ages 9-14.
Profile Image for Justin Tate.
Author 7 books906 followers
April 28, 2019
A mostly-fun adventure/mystery story geared for young readers but captivating enough for adults. I would recommend reading it during winter as it oozes with great imagery of snow drifts, fire places, creepy hotel hallways, dazzling windows and more. Intermixed between the mystery are interludes of heartfelt emotion regarding adoption. Sometimes the story loses focus and becomes distracted, but quickly gets back on pace. There are a LOT of characters, many of which never develop well enough to have any mental picture of them. Still, the writing is good and kept me turning the pages.
Profile Image for Jacob Proffitt.
2,937 reviews1,546 followers
December 5, 2014
There was never any question in my mind that this would turn out to be a five-star review (once I started reading, at any rate). It's not that the book is atmospheric. It is, and strongly so. And it's not that the characters are immediately and intensely engaging. They are, and without stretching or warping. And it's not the flirtation with archetype, pastiche, and homage in the setup with smugglers, customs agents, and a company town. Though it does a fantastic job of both presenting them and reigning them in to a story you can nevertheless lose yourself in.

No, the power (for me) of this book is Milo and his parents. Their shared love and openheartedness show clearly on every page, but positively shine in Milo's interactions with the guests. He resents their intrusion on his vacation, but he's still kind and giving—while still remaining a believably twelve year-old kid. I loved his flourishing as Meddy encourages him to stretch with their roleplaying game. I loved how he experimented, safely, with identity and capability and story. And I loved how his parents supported and trusted him in his exploration and investigations.

But the book stuck the needle at the end of its five stars with Milo's haltingly conceived Christmas gifts. The beauty of those moments was powerful and moving and I'm tearing up again just remembering them. They were idealistic (as from a kid), thoughtful (as befits an emerging adult), brave (as from a truly open heart), and humble (as from someone learning his place in his world). Those moments touched me, and not least in Milo's parents' calm, stolid support.

Add in a handful of laugh-out-loud moments and you have a book I'm sure I'll be thinking about at odd moments for the next months. This was truly a fantastic read, entertaining, touching, and valued. I'm thinking our holiday budget might just extend to picking up a copy of our very own (as this one came from the local library).
Profile Image for Luffy.
867 reviews718 followers
May 21, 2022
Finished the book a few minutes ago. It was near perfect. It rivalled the best books I've ever read. I daresay that Greenglass House is better than most Harry Potter books. It was a wonderful read. What is funny is that I am - even now - lacking words to praise this magical book.

I cannot sit still writing this review. Saying this book is grimdark would not be true, but even if it were to be so, it is so much more than that. This book is a historical fiction, a Fantasy, a book about riddles and mysteries, a book about magic, a book about loneliness, a book about Christmas and friendship and kinship.

I now realise why I stopped writing longer reviews at various points on this site. It is because at these points, a few monumentally superb books came along, and sapped my synapses' ability to be teeming with ideas to share. I will try to be verbose just a while before contemplating the sequel, which might be just equal in terms of Epicurean currencies, to its predecessor.

I have also to deal with the sneaky suspicion that the book affected me in this way and placing me in a crowd of minority. It seems like this book affected me strongly because it was compatible with me. There is no Greenglass.com, AFAIK. There is no fanfic around this series. Though I am not sure of the veracity of these statements I am sure you know what I am hinting at. Let us proceed.

The book is set in the real world but with magic just round the corner. It reminds me of witches and wizards forgetting their spells, of Rapunzels never being rescued. Of Griffins dying out, of dragons' bones being mistaken for dinosaurs. Of magic carpets and lamps staying in their caves forever. The book reminds me of the first human to turn 80, lifting his eyes to the sun that now did not seem so shiny new anymore.

Kate Milford would do amazingly well if the sequel is as good as book 1. Greenglass house has a Chinese main character, and the jade like name for the book is no coincidence. I think that there is only one way book 2 would be as good as book 1, and that if the author has deeply thought about it before sending book 1 to her editor.

Finally I am concluding by not promising if this book will strike a similar chord with others. This is a book about children having an adventure, but does it make the book for children? I think so, because the adults, especially the latecomers and the parents of the MC, are barely detailed. This is a discrepancy just because I myself am an adult. And maybe therein lies its lack of catching fire for the larger reading community. Harry Potter was a success because it had people of all ages sharing space. Here I think the book is not set in its time enough for it to please most. I don't think it is always the timeless books that gain notoriety and immortality. It is the carved wooden figure that becomes a more valuable chess piece, not a plastic nor the ivory ones. It is the Vinyl records that have greater shelf life, not the gramophones nor the laser discs.
Profile Image for Gavin Hetherington.
673 reviews5,599 followers
May 13, 2020
I wish I read this during Christmastime because this was a perfectly atmospheric wintery read!

Milo is excited that it's Christmas break. Not only does he get school off, but he lives at the Greenglass House - an inn where it's very quiet over Christmas. That's why it's highly unusual why a load of strangers would check in when it's supposed to be dead. Then, things start to go missing, and stories about the Greenglass House and its history begins to circulate. There's a mystery afoot and it's going to take Milo to some unexpected places.

I loved this book. I'm so glad I finally listened to Lexi who simply adores this book. I see why - the cosy atmosphere in this is infectious due to the well-written prose. I really wanted to curl up with a hot chocolate and read this well into the night. I would recommend reading this more closer to Christmas though as this really put me in the mood for the festive season.
Profile Image for Hilary .
2,230 reviews398 followers
December 3, 2018
During the Christmas holidays, Milo hopes to be spending some time alone with his parents who run a guest house mainly used by the smuggling community of Nagspeak. With only days to go before Christmas, the guest house fills with guests, all with their story to tell. When Milo makes friends with the cook's daughter they soon become involved in a role play game that seeks to find out the mysteries and thefts that involve the guests and the history of the house and the past and present occupants.

We loved the descriptions of the history around the house, the hiding places and life living in the guest house. We liked the way the stories of the guests tied in together and how the book Milo was reading echoed the events and stories which blended with the plot of the story. We appreciated the child characters imaginative play, I imagine readers into role play games would really enjoy this element of the book.

Minor downsides for me was that the book seemed very long, perhaps it felt that way because the chapters were quite long. I felt there were too many mentions of drinking hot chocolate, we began to laugh it happened so much, and the word 'kiddo' sounded awful to our UK ears!

We enjoyed the twist towards the end, we didn't see that coming! An enjoyable whodunit that kept us guessing until the end.
417 reviews5 followers
August 13, 2018
Summary (amazon.com)
It was supposed to be winter vacation. Though Milo’s parents run an inn with a clientele that tends to include more than your average number of smugglers, he can always count on winter vacation to be bereft of guests. Yet in spite of the awful icy weather, a guest appears. Then another. Then two more. All told more than five guests appear with flimsy excuses for their arrival. Some seem to know one another. Others act suspiciously. And when thefts start to take place, Milo and his new friend Meddy decide to turn detective. Yet even as they unravel clues about their strange clientele there are always new ones to take their places. Someone is sabotaging the Greenglass House but it’s the kids who will unmask the culprit.

What I liked:
The setting – Green Glass House itself, is spectacular – an old smugglers’ inn noted for its beautiful stained glass windows, sitting at the top of a cliff reached by funicular. It’s Christmas and the beautiful old house is decorated for the holidays. Green Glass House, with its many floors, secret spaces and treasures within, is almost a character in itself. A snowstorm rages outside, and the power goes out isolating the owners and guests and creating the perfect atmosphere for something mysterious and dangerous to occur. The vocabulary in the story is purposely high level – puissance, glazier, raconteur, - I had to Google these words among others. The book has gorgeous cover art perfectly suited to the story.

What I didn’t like
There were too many characters, each with his/her own back-story. None were particularly likeable and their stories were long, and confusing. At one point, I started a list to keep things straight, but quickly gave up. There is not much fun in reading a book when you have to make a cheat sheet. When Meddy and Milo begin their role-playing game of Odd Trails, they take character names, which make things even more confusing since they are then referred to by their real and character names.
I have never participated in any role-playing games, so I did not connect with this part of the story, and how the game characters have certain powers and characteristics that help them succeed. I even began to Google some of the game names and terms; e.g.-Odd Trails, tiercer signaler, in the hope that I would gain some fresh insight or interest in the story. No such luck.
The pacing was excruciatingly slow. The chapters were excruciatingly long. It took forever for something to happen and I quickly lost interest. Green Glass House is one of the few children’s books I could not finish – although I read the ending so see how the mystery resolves.

What Confused Me:
There is timelessness to the story, which suits the plot, but left me a bit confused. Is this set in modern times? There are no real modern conveniences, such as computers, texting, cell phones, or television. The location of the story is never clearly defined. Where is Green Glass House? Likewise, the history of smugglers in the area. When I think of smugglers, I think of them in the past tense. Are there still smugglers, and why is Green Glass house a haven for smugglers? Mr. and Mrs. Pine seem to be thoroughly up right characters that would not cater to smugglers. It took me several searches on Google to figure out that the setting for Green Glass House might be located in Nagspeak, a fictionalized town created by the author, Kate Milford on her website nagspeake.com. In some ways, this book came across as a hybrid realistic fiction/fantasy mix but it was obviously much more fantasy, especially with the surprise ending that Meddy is really the ghost daughter of the notorious old smuggler Doc Holystone. (Who I also goggled – I did far too much goggling for this book.)

In Conclusion:
For me this was a very peculiar and confusing book. The premise was good and reminded me of an Agatha Christie type book – a group of characters isolated in an old mansion where something mysterious/murderous is going to happen. Green Glass house was highly reviewed by many (adults) and is even mentioned as a Newbery contender. However, because of the sophisticated vocabulary, confusing location, drawn out plot and many characters, I very much doubt that this book will have any kind of mass appeal with kids. There is no bad language or situations in this book. I think it could be read by both boys and girls in 5th grade and up.
This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
Profile Image for Beth.
1,142 reviews113 followers
January 25, 2022
Greenglass House is a winter book. It makes me think about cozy blankets and hot chocolate and snow days, very much like The Dark is Rising does - to the extent that when I snapped out of my reading haze, I was surprised to realize it was still summer and there wasn't snow on the ground.

So, setting and atmosphere. That's the first distinguished aspect of the novel. (In case the word "distinguished" makes you think of the Newbery: well, yes. Someone give this book a medal, please.)

Greenglass House isn't only about atmosphere. Its primary goal is to tell a great story, and so it's got a fabulous mystery, too, tied up in Milo's family and the inn that's the family business and the smugglers who are the primary guests. It's an intriguing blend of old and new elements - smugglers and ships and creaking train cars, lanterns and backup generators and role-playing games - and a timeless bit of secrecy and petty thievery. The book is clearly inspired by books that preceded it, and yet it's also its own beast, its own unique reading adventure.

And it is an adventure. It's a perfectly balanced, compulsively readable, wonderful adventure with an independent child protagonist who never strains plausibility.

Which brings me to the spoiler I want to discuss - and this is a big spoiler, so read the book and then come talk to me about this:

I do want to point out that there are certain inconsistencies from chapter to chapter - flames blown out twice, hats removed twice - which ordinarily would bother me a lot. And it's not that they don't bother me; it's just that the novel is so good at what it does that I can look away from the inconsistencies. Especially when there are lines like this:
"Nobody said it had to be a story with an ending all neatly tied up like some ridiculous fairy tale. This story's true, and true stories don't have endings, because things just keep going."

I haven't finished reading the Newbery manual, so I can't make a case for a medal armed with all the criteria - but the medal should honor great stories. And this is a great one.
Profile Image for Sherwood Smith.
Author 167 books37.5k followers
May 22, 2015
What a lovely, lovely book! All my life I have adored books about huge houses full of secrets, and this one adds smugglers and mystery and a search, and a delightfully spiky but tender friendship between a couple of lonely kids full of questions and longings. Their problems are very different, but each does his or her best for the other and they make a terrific sleuth team. I loved the central family--indeed, what the book had to say about families.

I loved the peculiar characters, each of whom developed over the course of the book, and then there was the breathtaking twist.

I hate to say more, lest I tread into spoiler territory, but this was such a satisfying read.
Profile Image for kezzie ☾ (taylor’s version).
400 reviews197 followers
December 10, 2022
✩ 4.5 stars
such a perfect magical read for the holidays!💝
this was:
hot chocolate with a drizzle of a cozy mystery, a snowy, xmas setting & a group of jolly, merry characters with a bit of a bittersweet/sentimental feeling ☕️🎄🎁❄️
also the authors note was precious 🥹 <3
Profile Image for Mara.
1,556 reviews3,755 followers
January 10, 2022
3.5 stars - This was such an imaginative version of a middle grade mystery! I'm not sure how I felt about the speculative elements that ended up being incorporated, but the setting/atmosphere and characters were really lovely. This felt very cozy, so if you can read this while it's nice and snowy out :)
Profile Image for Melissa.
Author 10 books4,284 followers
April 29, 2019
Cozy and lovely and clever, set in an intriguing world we only see a corner of. I loved it as an adult and would've loved it as a kid.
Profile Image for Kathryn.
4,240 reviews
December 31, 2018
Oh, Greenglass House, I wanted to love you so. I did love you, you were a five-star book, poised to be my favorite of the year... then came the last four chapters, and kinda burst my bubble.

But, I will start with the positives. I really loved the writing style. It was so immersive, filled with wonderful atmosphere, the house is almost a character and all the characters who come to visit it are distinct and interesting. As for whether this is a "Christmas book" -- I would say that it definitely is, in so much as we have lots of snow, Christmas trees, hot chocolate, sledding, Christmas presents... Milo (our protagonist) really, really wishing he could spend the holiday with just his parents and not an Inn full of strangers. Also, one of the messages of the book is the joy of giving. That said, I feel it could be read at any time of year as none of the main plot points have anything to do with Christmas. The writing felt so effortless -- sometimes with books you can feel the author behind the words, trying to be clever or something -- I just felt instantly part of the world and sympathetic to Milo. The character names are great, too. Some writers just have a knack for picking names for their characters. In many cases, the writing style reminded me a bit of J.K. Rowling. I thought for awhile that the mystery might live up to her standards, but it fell short for me in the end.

I loved that what happened (until the end) never felt to out-there in terms of a real twelve-year-old handling it. Milo is smart and observant and knows a lot about the Inn. He has hidden talents just waiting to be harnessed. But he is not some genius, he does not suddenly discover he has magical powers... he's just a normal kid. And the situations he handled didn't feel to astronomically out-there (once you accept that his parents run an Inn that primarily caters to smugglers...) I worried that the role-playing game would get annoying, but fortunately it did not get in the way of the story and enhanced Milo's character development. I appreciated that some of his troubles were so real-world and I also appreciated that the aspect of his adoption was handled with such sensitivity.

I really enjoyed the cast of characters at the Inn. I know some reviewers mentioned it felt like too many characters, but I'm a fan of some of those old mystery stories where the guests are all stranded at an Inn (hello, Agatha Christie!) so I liked that aspect here. I felt each character was distinct and each ended up bringing something different to the story. It is interesting that the characters were almost all adults yet they interacted with Milo in a way that felt very real and didn't make me miss the usual parcel of other similar-aged kids around. A few instances felt a bit too coincidental but I was willing to let it play out and see if something amazing happened at the end to show it wasn't really a coincidence after all.

I also loved Milo's relationship with his parents. It was so refreshing to see a middle grade story in which 1) the parents are alive 2) the parents are present and 3) the parents are loving and attentive. Usually this can never be because "it doesn't allow the protagonist to grow" if Mommy and Daddy are right there to take care of everything. But, especially as a parent myself, I really appreciated that this story makes it work! Milo has plenty of opportunities to solve the mystery without his parents, but he doesn't really have to lie to them or do anything dangerous to do it. His parents are preoccupied with the sudden influx of guests, dealing with the storm, etc. but they are always around if needed and make a point to reach out to Milo making sure he is doing okay with all the changes. It is clear that this is a loving family who genuinely enjoy one another's company. So refreshing! (I suppose the "family angst" aspect is that Milo often wonders about his birth family and has some longing there, even though that makes him feel disloyal to his mom and dad.)

So, what didn't work for me? The ending. The tone just suddenly changed and made the story much darker and sadder, and also less kid-friendly (some violence that just seemed to come completely out of nowhere). Oh, it's not nearly as bad as what is in a lot of middle grade books these days. Probably nothing that would have been out of place even in the earlier Harry Potter books. But it just felt really jolting here because up until that point it had been such a cozy, sip-your-hot-chocolate-in-compfort sort of read. I was also quite annoyed at one of the plot twists because it seemed more of a trick than a reveal. In mysteries I like a reveal that makes you feel elated, like, oh my goodness, the author was so brilliant! the clues were totally there and I just missed them duh! oh wow, that was genius *standing ovation* This one made me feel more like, heyyyyy, no fair!

Still, I really did love most of the book and, knowing now the author's tricks, I will likely proceed a little more cautiously, but still optimistically, into the sequels at some point. Maybe some of my problems/unsolved questions will be satisfyingly addressed in the sequel.

Major spoilers to follow:

Profile Image for Heidi.
756 reviews175 followers
October 19, 2014
Sure, Greenglass House barreled its way into the top spot for my Middle Grade picks of the year for a number of reasons. It’s gorgeous artwork, it’s beautifully crafted mystery, it’s stories and friendships and love–these are all reasons I adored this book, but there was one that stood out to me: Greenglass House is a book about adoption…and it’s not.

I myself was adopted as a baby, and grew up knowing as much. After seeing any number of made for TV dramas (Felicity anyone?) in which the grown child finds out their parents are not truly “their own” and then spiral into an unparalleled identity crisis and cesspool of betrayed feelings, I’m quite grateful for the openness of my family. And not in a “This is our adopted daughter, Margot.” kind of way. My parents made it special, giving me “Heidi Day”, the day I was adopted, as a sort of second birthday to celebrate each year. We still do, if only through a phone call.

Like Milo in Greenglass House, I never felt a lack of love because of my adoption, in fact, I felt an overabundance of it. My parents wanted me in their lives so badly they waited years to make me a part of their family. They went through the emotional roller coaster and red tape of adoption (not once, but twice–my older brother is adopted as well), to make certain that I had a the best home and family they could give. I never once felt like my biological mother didn’t love me, quite the opposite. I knew that she loved me so much she was willing to give me up because she couldn’t provide the home and family she wanted for me.

I’ve never known much about my biological parents–they were always some vague statistics on a certificate to me. Height, age, hair and eye color, ethnic origin (which is “mixed European” and doesn’t do much for one’s ethnic identity btw), that’s about it. Honestly, I’ve given very little thought to my biological father. I know that my mother was 19, and a freshman in college, and I can’t help but assume that he wasn’t really in the picture. My mother, on the other hand, I’ve considered a great deal. One of the things that has meant the most to me in life was a letter written to me by my biological mother that my parents gave to me on my 16th birthday, when they knew I was old enough to grasp everything therein (I was, after all, only 3 years younger at the time than the woman who wrote it). In the letter, my bio mother explained to me why she made the decision she did, and suffice it to say it came from a place of vast love rather than a place of not wanting.

This is the thing that meant so much to me about Greenglass House–the wondering. Milo loves his parents unquestionably–they’re his family. But as the adopted son of a different culture, he can’t help but wonder about his parents. And in Greenglass House, Kate Milford assures us that it’s okay to wonder. Sure, my identity crisis was a bit easier than Milo’s. While my biology is not almost entirely Norwegian and German like my family’s, I’m still white. We match in a way that I would have to tell someone for them to know that I was adopted (and frequently did as a child, much to my brother’s chagrin who hated people knowing we were adopted). But still–as I enter the phase of trying to create my own family, I can’t help but feel this astounding craving to have someone in my life who looks like me (to which my sister has laughed and pointed out that she puts red highlights in her hair just so people will stop asking if her daughter is adopted–she’s not, just doesn’t look like her mom at all). Milo–I get you.

Over the past couple of months, thanks to a wedding gift from a friend, I’ve joined 23 and Me which has given me an interesting look at my true ethnic history. Has it helped me feel identified? No, not really–I still identify as ethnically Norwegian, even though I’m only 6.9% Scandinavian, but it’s opened up a world of potential connections to me that I can’t help but find interesting and tempting. I don’t plan to use 23 and Me (or anything else) to actively track down my biological mother, but I’m open to the possibility that it could happen. Prior to reading Greenglass House, this always felt like a bit of a betrayal to my adoptive family, particularly my father. I don’t ever want to hurt him or have him feel as if I don’t love him more than anything by finding out about life before him. But in Greenglass House, which is in its way a letter to the Milford’s future adopted child, Milo is assured that his parents know he wonders, and more than that–they’re okay with it. I’m just betting, despite never having had the conversation, my dad’s okay with it too. greenglass

I’ve only ever read two books I can think of in which the main character was adopted (and I mean adopted at birth, not in a tragic orphan finds a home Anne Shirley kind of way), and Greenglass House was one of them. Everyone in our community speaks toward the need of diverse books and one of the driving reasons is that everyone deserves to see a major part of themselves in a book. Not always–we use books to escape, and having different characters that we don’t relate to broadens our mindset and worldview–but each and every one of us deserves that at some point. For me, Greenglass House was able to reflect back a part of myself I’ve rarely had the opportunity to see.

I’m not sure I can really express how much that makes this book mean to me personally, but I’ve tried. It means even more that while being adopted was a big part of Milo’s identity, it wasn’t really what Greenglass House was about. It’s not really what I’m about either–it’s just a building block, one piece of who I am as a person. An important one, but not everything.

So thank you, Kate Milford, for writing this book. For making adoption a part of it, and for telling me that it’s okay to wonder.


Greenglass House is available now from Clarion Books, and I couldn’t encourage you more to go read it. It’s beautiful, fun, suspenseful, and touching. It’s been nominated for the Cybils Awards (even before I got to it), and has been long listed for the National Book Award.
Profile Image for Mia.
332 reviews202 followers
Shelved as 'abort-mission'
March 14, 2017
Dear Greenglass House,

I am so very sorry, but it's just not working. I thought we were made for each other- smugglers, a creaky old stained-glass inn, winter vacation, mysterious thefts- it looked like everything I could want in a cozy little book. But as I read more and more, I just couldn't get into you. It seemed to be just kids dressing up and spying on guests, and while that's all well and good, I was looking for a more... mature relationship. I wanted a plot twist, or a hidden truth finally uncovered, something to move the story along from the wandering, meandering, overly leisurely pace it was taking. And I hate to say this, but- I just didn't care. Maybe it was the humid summer air, or the other books sending me seductive, beckoning glances from my to-read shelf, but by the hundredth page, I knew it was too late for us, Greenglass House.

I hope that someday I'll be able to try again. But for right now, I think we're better off apart. Another time, another place, another lifetime- maybe we'll be together then.

All my love,
April 6, 2023
This book is everything you want in a mystery. The atmosphere! The house! Coziness! Spookiness! Feasts! Cool characters! Puzzles! Games! Danger! Love! High adventure!
If I had read this when I was eight I guarantee it would have been one of my most favorite books.
Heck, I’m 53 and it is one of my most favorite books.
Also ~ it helped me out of a great big reading slump.
Profile Image for Alexandra.
1,309 reviews3 followers
May 3, 2018
By now this book has a bazillion reviews, but I do want to mention a few of the things I really liked.

For starters, it's nice to read a MG story that has two loving and present parents for the MC. I understand why this often isn't the case as a plot device, but it's certainly nice to run into an exception.

I very much enjoyed the MC and friend pretending they were in a role playing game while sleuthing to solve the mysterious events at Greenglass house. It added charm and fun, and helped make the kids feel like real kids.

I also appreciated the fact that there is a positive message here about kids who are adopted, as well as honest feelings from an adopted kid, without being a "message" story. I think many writers can learn from books like this one how to incorporate thoughts and feelings kids can relate to, with positive, compassionate affirmation of those feelings, without resorting to making such things the main focus of the story. I find this treatment of an issue much more enjoyable, as it's more organic.

For the most part this story has a feel of being a bit fantastic while at the same time it's really doesn't contain any elements of Fantasy, with one notable exception we learn at the end.
Profile Image for Lisa Vegan.
2,759 reviews1,218 followers
June 18, 2021
This book had been on my list for a long time and I have many GR friends who’ve enjoyed it so I decided to read it and stick with it no matter how I felt about it. I’d been on a streak of reading nothing but great books right for my mood at the time but recently I’d been having a hard time finding a book I wanted to read. Either they didn’t feel worth picking up or I started them and could feel no enthusiasm for continuing. I’m in the mood for certain books not yet available. I know there must be many books that would be working for me but I haven’t been able to think of them.

I enjoyed this book but until I was far into the book it did not call to me and it was a chore to pick it up. That was my mood more than the book. Once again I found it harder to want to start reading because of the very long chapters (maybe 30 minutes each, perfect for bedtime stories but not for me these days.) I did end up enjoying it though and I’m really glad I read it.

I loved the humor.

The foods & drinks described was scrumptious, especially all the hot chocolate.

I hated the violence. I wish the bad guy(s) had been less villainous. It seemed a bit over the top, especially for this story.

I knew that there was a supernatural aspect to this book but until the reveal I couldn’t quite figure out precisely what it was. There were certainly abundant clues but they went right over my head. It’s tempting to reread it (someday) to know from the beginning what is going on.

I found the game tedious at times and fun at times.

This is a great book about the adoption and I found the author’s note in the back of the book affecting.

Even though I was enjoying the book, I didn’t think I’d be interested in reading any sequel and I probably won’t, but I found the last two chapters touching and fun and I could be being interested enough to read beyond this book.

This would be a good book to read around Christmastime.

For much of the book I thought it would be a 3 star book but it ended up being a solid 4 star worthy book for me.
Profile Image for Cheryl .
9,254 reviews398 followers
February 3, 2017
Utterly charming, with an old-fashioned vibe that gives the impression that it was the inspiration for The Westing Game rather than the other way round. I love all the made-up books and games and words... but I'm glad to learn that The Holly-Tree Inn by Charles Dickens is real, and I will be reading that. The name of Milo, of course, must be from The Phantom Tollbooth.

I love all the individual characters. Some are more simply sketched than others, but all add value. One, for example, just shows us how to offer comfort: "He didn't ask if Milo was okay, or if he needed a tissue, or if he wanted to be left alone for a little. He just stayed there and kept Milo company." Love that the parents are very present, very loving, but that Milo still gets to have as much adventure as if he were the stereotypical MG orphan.

The plot and the setting are fantastical, but in a good way, with the dichotomy of the juicy historical fantasy contrasted with the actual setting of the 'present day', but in an inn that apparently doesn't have TV or access to a cell-phone tower... it's all rather slippery....

I bet the audio is pretty good, but I'd avoid it. You don't want to miss the little illustrations, or the ability to flip back and check on something. You also want to have a cup of hot chocolate, or at least cider, while reading this, as the winter storm, and the measures the characters take to alleviate the chill, are characters in their own right. There's also an author's note explaining the background of the story, including an explanation of Milford's pending adoption of a Chinese orphan. (I wonder if it's gone through, and business w/ that is slowing down production of the sequel.)

Normally I read only the first book of an adventure series because I don't like adventures and am just reading it for the world-building. But this is much more than an adventure, and so I'm thrilled to learn that a sequel to this is planned, and will reread this when I can get that. Also I learned that the author's other books are set in the same world and so I will investigate them.

I feel like I'm not doing the book justice, but rather than struggle to say something more, let me just highly recommend this to interested readers, with the caveat that it may not have universal appeal.
Profile Image for Desi (Pastel Pages).
85 reviews2,206 followers
November 5, 2019
This book is absolutely phenomenal. I don't know why no one told me about this book before? It is extremely under hyped. This is a book that everyone should read! It is heart warming, parts of it are very hard hitting, and it feels like Christmas the entire time! So much hot chocolate is consumed and now I am completely in the mood for the holidays.
143 reviews
October 23, 2014
This book started out great, the writing was cute and the setting was fun. But the story quickly showed it had no steam. What was the mystery? Why did it need to be solved? There's a map--so what? What's at stake? NOTHING. I tried to get my 10 yr old daughter to read it and she said it was boring.

Worse, there is a twist about 30 pages from the end that is not believable based on the story as written up to that point. In addition the main character Milo was supposed to be 12 but acted about six. The lesson about adoptive children sounded like what adoptive parents would worry about but not the kids themselves. And the mystery solution at the end was pathetic.

This book is full of atmosphere but no meat to the story. Pretty disappointing.
Profile Image for Skip.
3,285 reviews395 followers
November 15, 2015
Milo lives in an inn, with his adoptive parents, the Pines. They are looking forward to a quiet Christmas, when a series of unexpected guests arrive, each with stories relating to the mysterious inn, a smuggler's place. Milo was a good lead character: honest, hardworking, but unsure of himself. Help arrives, including Meddy, who helps him dig into his imagination through a role playing game, through which he gains self confidence by to solving the mysteries of the guests' stolen belongings and ultimately, the mystery behind the house itself. There is some town folklore, a cast of quirky guests at the inn, and a good plot twist at the end. I also enjoyed the endnote by the author about adoption. My only complaint was I found it slow at times.
Profile Image for Sina & Ilona Glimmerfee.
1,054 reviews122 followers
August 10, 2021
Ich bin auf das Buch durch die amerikanischen Booktuber aufmerksam geworden und habe mich sehr gefreut, dass es übersetzt wurde. Die Erwartungen waren ziemlich hoch, da eigentlich nur Gutes über die Geschichte gesprochen wurde. Ich hatte anfangs Schwierigkeiten in die Geschichte zu kommen und brauchte einen weiteren Anlauf, um in sie hinein zu finden, um so glücklicher bin ich, dem Buch eine zweite Chance gegeben zu haben.

Hoch über dem kleinen Küstenstädtchen thront auf der hohen Klippe ein ganz besonderes Hotel. Nicht nur dass es schwer zu erreichen ist, man hat die Wahl zwischen 310 Stufen oder Strandseilbahn, wird es nur von Schmugglern und anderen zwielichten Gästen besucht. Im Hotel lebt Milo, ein chinesischer Junge, der von den Besitzern adoptiert wurde. Milo freut sich, er hat Ferien und Hotel und Eltern ganz für sich. Doch aus den ruhigen Ferien und einem gemütlichen Weihnachtsfest wird nichts, denn Schlag auf Schlag trudeln Gäste ein und dann geschehen auch noch Diebstähle. Milo und Meddy beginnen mit Hilfe eines alten Rollenspiels zu ermitteln und vielleicht erfahren sie nebenbei auch einiges über sich selber.

Die Gäste sind skurril und es wird schnell klar, dass ihr Zusammentreffen kein purer Zufall ist. Milo ist sehr sympathisch und wird im Laufe der Geschichte immer mutiger und selbvstbewusster. Meddy ist eher von der unscheinbaren Sorte und möchte nicht im Mittelpunkt stehen, zusammen mit Milo bilden sie ein cleveres und mutiges Duo. Jeder Gäste hat eine Geschichte, die im Zusammenhang mit dem Hotel steht. Ich fand die Charaktere einprägsam und interessant.

Für mich war der Rollenspiel-Aspekt ganz besonders interessant und hat mich sehr zum Denken gebracht. Es geht aber auch um das Thema Adoption und dass es gut und normal ist, wenn man Fragen hat und gerne über die Adoption und die damit verbundenen Fragen sprechen möchte.

Das Greenglass House ist ein wundervolles Buch für die kältere Jahreszeit oder wenn es im Sommer zu warm ist und man von kühleren Tagen träumt. Es ist bitterkalt, der Schnee liegt richtig schön hoch und auf den Treppen und Wegen hat sich eine dicke Eisschicht gebildet.

Ich finde, dass die Geschichte sehr warmherzig ist und viele richtig schöne Momente hat und auch das Weihnachtsfest, trotz der unerwarteten Gästen, gefiel mir gut.
Profile Image for Ivonne Rovira.
1,895 reviews196 followers
September 12, 2022
Milo Pine had been expecting to spend his Christmas break alone with his parents even though he lives in a 200-year-old inn; after all, Nagspeake, the snowy harbor-side town where the inn’s located, isn’t that hospitable in winter. But first one unexpected visitor arrives, then another and soon there are five strangers lodging at the end.

Plus Meddy, the daughter of the inn’s cook. Bossy Meddy enlists Milo’s help in finding out exactly who these strangers are. And it soon turns out that all of them are harboring secrets and have come to Greenglass House in search of — well, Milo and Meddy want to find out. The intrepid duo also find out about the house’s history and their own.

I don’t want to spoil this fabulous tale with any more details. Author Kate Milford packs the story with lots of excitement and adventure. I read the book in the Kindle format, but I bought it on Audible so that I can force my family to read it. You see, I can be as bossy as Meddy. Yet another children’s book wasted on children; I cannot wait to read the sequel. Highly, highly recommended, of course!
Profile Image for human.
640 reviews987 followers
July 31, 2020
I LOVE mysteries, and this book seriously delivered! The atmosphere was fun but intriguing, and the characters were enjoyable too. Wasn't a fan of the ending, but the story itself was really good for the most part.
(Also that cover is sooo prettyyyyy)
December 12, 2020
Wow was this an amazing book! Perfect for Christmas. I felt such a cozy feeling the whole time I was reading it. I LOVED this house! I want to live there! The author described everything/everyone so well. I related to Milo so much w/many things. I hate change, & it brings me anxiety. I have OCD. It can take different forms w/different people. But things have to be a certain way for example, also things have to face forward, it gives me anxiety it they are backwards-that’s just ONE example. Lol so the things he dealt w/I could totally understand to that effect. One thing I couldn’t identify with was the adoption aspect. In my opinion this was done so well, but again that’s not for me to say. In the back the author talks about her family starting the international adoption process, & adopting from China. In thinking of adoptive families & what theirs might be like, & hours of reading & study, came the characters Milo, Nora, & Ben Pine. I really encourage you to read the whole authors note. She goes on from there, & even speaks to her future child who may one day read this. It made me emotional honestly, & love the book even more if possible. Back to the book, my favs were Milo & Meddy. I loved their friendship. She helped Milo SO much. I found the whole idea of the “game” they played fascinating. Even that helped him a lot. We have many characters, & this was a brilliant whodunnit. I had no idea who the culprit was, & the ending was shocking-I loved it. The culprit, & everything about the ending-amazing! The big scene at the end got me emotional from the sheer power of the scene. This book had so much depth, mystery, adventure, family, friendships, love, detective goodness...just too many things to count. I loved it so much, & cant wait to start the next one. Highly recommend. Beautifully stunning cover by Jaime Zollars as well, along w/amazing illustrations above every chapter heading.💜
Profile Image for Jennie Damron.
466 reviews60 followers
December 28, 2020
This book was recommended and highly praised by my favorite booktuber, Alexandra Roselyn. Boy does she know her books or what. This book was fantastic! A perfect wintery, cozy read.
All Milo wants to do is enjoy his vacation with his family. Relaxed and undisturbed at Greenglass House which is also an Inn for Smugglers. All of a sudden the bell rings signalling a guest. As they are getting this guest settled the bell rings again and Milo knows he's not getting the vacation he wants.
The guest are all searching for something to do with the house. Everyone is kind of tight lipped about it, but then items start disappearing and a mystery ensues.
I loved, loved, loved this book. Delightful, charming and so much more than what I thought it would be. Highly recommend!
Profile Image for Emily.
698 reviews2,023 followers
January 2, 2017
I really liked this and found it charming - it's sort of a more positive Lemony Snicket mixed with Diana Wynne Jones. I'd love to know what middle grade readers think of it, though, because while I found the themes explored to be done well (adoption and family), it did read like an adult writing for children. Milo and Meddy both display slightly too much emotional maturity, especially when it doesn't matter - the small things like Milo getting frustrated and Meddy saying something like, "I know, it frustrates me too" stand out. But in general, this is a great addition to a children's library. If anyone has a tween that wants to join my Kate Milford book club, just shout.
Profile Image for Agnieszka Małecka.
54 reviews2 followers
April 27, 2021
Perełka. Przepraszam cię książko, że po 100 stronach w ciebie zwątpiłam. Ta końcówka... 💚🌲
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