Greenglass House - Kate Milford

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. 
(Description courtesy of Clarion Books)


Another really interesting and fun choice for the National Book Award this year, Greenglass House is a combination of mystery, role-playing, growing up, smuggling, and a mysterious gate. Through theft and lies, intrigue and suspense, Milford has deftly woven together a complex novel that will be sure to find many young fans. The setting and the house itself are both so wonderfully described that they become characters in their own right. Milford's style will readers wondering what will happen next as the story moves from Milo and Meddy trying to solve the mystery of how all the smugglers are connected, to the stories each smuggler tells (each of which reveals deeper motivations, but also unleashes more lies and mystery!)
The plaid silk ribbon that tied the jingle bell to [Milo's] door wasn't the same. The bow he had neatened when he'd left that morning was crumpled. Someone had turned the doorknob, and since Milo didn't make a habit of locking his door, that meant someone had probably been in his room. The leather wallet and The Raconteur's Commonplace Book were still there on his desk, right where he'd left them, but once again, something was wrong. 
Though the plot itself isn't particularly fast paced, Milford combines truth and lies in such a way as to keep Milo and Meddy at a disadvantage in understanding the smugglers, and yet Milo's knowledge of the house (to a degree) keeps him one step ahead in other ways. The storytelling sub-plot is one that I found fascinating, and it worked really well in the context of the story, and not only to slowly reveal the histories of each of the smugglers, but also as an homage to oral storytelling traditions.
Listen. There was once a young man who lived in a small town by the bay and worked up the coast in a slightly larger town to the north. The boy's name was Julian Roamer....
I'm not entirely sure of this would be one that I would see as a winner of the NBA, but I wouldn't be surprised if it shows up on the shortlist! [By the time this is posted on the West Coast, I guess I'll find out if my assertion is true!]

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