Through the Looking Glass Children's Book Reviews

Greenglass House

Greenglass House

Kate Milford
For ages 9 to 12
Clarion Books, 2014   ISBN: 978-0544052703

Milo is really looking forward to the winter vacation. Traditionally no one comes to stay at the family inn, the Greenglass House, at this time of year so he will have his parents to himself. He is working on his homework (to get it out of the way) when the bell for the cable railway rings. Milo and his mother go out to the start the winch, wondering could possibly be arriving on this cold, snowy night a few days before Christmas. When the cable car arrives at the top of the hill it contains a passenger. It turns out that they are going to have a guest over the holiday after all, which Milo is, quite frankly, not happy about.

   Then another guest arrives in the cable railway, and then two more at the same time. A fifth arrives by running up the stairs from the waterfront. Milo’s mother ends up having to call the chef - who is supposed to be having a vacation too - to ask her for some help. The next day the chef arrives with her daughter Lizzie and Lizze’s young sister, Meddy. Milo and his parents are going to have a full house over the festive season.

   While looking for a book that he has misplaced, Milo finds a wallet outside. In the wallet there is a very old map, and nothing on it looks at all familiar. Milo takes the wallet back to the house and later Meddy, who is Milo’s age, sees it. Meddy suggests that she and Milo carry out a “campaign” as part of a role-playing game to find out what the map is and who it belongs to. Milo has never played a game like this before and at first the whole thing seems a little silly, but then he starts to get interested. He creates a character for himself, a “trickster type” who is good at finding hidden objects, unearthing secrets and stealing things.

   Then Milo finds out that someone has stolen the map from his room and replaced it with a blank piece of paper. Milo notices that the paper in the wallet has the same watermark that he saw on the map, an image of a gate that looks familiar. Milo leads Meddy up to the fourth floor of the inn and shows her that the stain glass window in the hallway has a gate motif just like the watermark. They go up to the attic to explore, where they find all kinds of interesting things, including a piece of paper just like the one that was put in the wallet to replace the map.

   Then three of the guests have things stolen from their rooms. Everyone is very upset and the mood in the house becomes tense. Milo and Meddy set about searching the house and Milo, true to his character in the game, turns out to be very good at finding hidden objects. One of the objects, Mrs. Hereward’s knitting bag, turns out to have an image of Greenglass House on it, and the gate motif is there too. It turns out that Mrs. Hereward is connected to the house in some way, and she is not the only one. Everyone who has come to the inn is looking for something and Milo is determined to figure out what they are seeking and how they are connected.

    Readers, both the young and the not so young, are going to be captivated by this remarkable story. We are observers as Milo and Meddy begin to piece together who the visitors are and how they are connected to Greenglass House and its history. We cannot be sure which of the guests is there with malicious intensions, but someone surely is. We cannot even be sure that Milo and Meddy will be able to unravel the threads of story and history that seem to entangle them all; the answers that they are seeking are so elusive. As the story reaches a climatic and pivotal moment, Milo learns something that is both staggering and incredibly wonderful.