Saturday, October 8, 2016

Book Review: Greenglass House

This book, Greenglass House, is a great read for tweens who love a good mystery, have a healthy imagination, and are in the mood for a dead-of-winter type of read. It is also highly recommended for those who are adopted and have ever wondered about their birth parents or heritage. The story is sure to please any child, adopted or not, because the mystery pulls you along with mounting clues until, with a bit of suspension of disbelief, the story is pieced together and resolved.

Milo Pine is a young Asian boy whose adoptive parents run an inn for smugglers atop a mountain in Nagspeake (near a harbor for easy water access). The young boy is disappointed to find his anticipated quiet winter vacation disrupted by unexpected guests. The bell rings, alerting the presence of a customer wishing to be conveyed on the roller-coaster-like car up the giant mountain (this image immediately brought forth memories of a trip up the Duquesne Incline in Pittsburgh, PA, back when I was a teenager, although this trip sounds more like a two-seater car pulled up on creaky old chains). Unbelievably, more guests arrive. Snow secludes them in the rickety old house and Milo, with the assistance of the cook's daughter, must determine why each guest has come. He suggests that they each tell a story, in a bid to find out more. The stories unfold, items are stolen and retrieved, new characters appear, and Milo takes on a special role to ferret out the facts of the case.

The framework is based loosely on a tale by Dickens called "The Holly Tree Inn" (where guests are trapped by inclement weather and pass the time by sharing stories). The author's note at the end of the book was fascinating. She told of the origin of the tale. She and her husband were in the process of adopting a young child from China (thus the adoption element which addresses many typical emotions young children feel when they are adopted). Plus, a writing prompt about "stained glass" led to her vision of the old house, with its windows and the stories such windows often tell. I always love to hear an author's explanation for the germ of a story.

Several parents in other reviews felt it important to mention that the book includes Dungeons and Dragons type role-playing games and the inclusion of a ghost in the story. For me, this was not a significant issue. I can handle the presence of such things and do not worry, if my sons choose to read it, that they would suddenly take up role-playing games or seek out spirits to communicate with. But, for some parents, this might be a factor in their book selection process.

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