I first heard about The Greenglass House on the What Should I Read Next podcast and was enchanted by Anne Bogel’s brief synopsis. Shortly after her podcast, it was included Anne’s roundup of books to cozy up with this winter and she described it as a wink and a nod to The Phantom Tollbooth, which was one of my childhood favorites. That sealed the deal for me – I knew I needed to read it as soon as possible!
I adored this book. Not only did it show homage to The Phantom Tollbooth, but I was constantly reminded of The Westing Game, another of my favorites growing up (which, by the way, I recently re-read as an adult and it totally holds up).
Greenglass House has a history of being a smuggler’s den – a place that has welcomed the sneaky and nefarious throughout its years. In fact, it used to be owned by one of the most famous smugglers in the area and rumors swirl about its ghosts. The house itself is squeaky and huge with the most beautiful stained glass windows.
But now it’s home to Milo and his adopted parents, who run it as an inn. It’s Christmas vacation week and Milo is looking forward to a quiet time with his family, especially since they’re expecting to be snowed in. Much to his chagrin, the inn becomes packed with the oddest assortment of guests and Milo can’t seem to shake the feeling that no one is being very honest about why they’re there. Milo’s parents even have to call in reinforcements for help with cleaning and cooking, which adds three more people to the mix.
Even though he’s trying really hard to be polite, it’s clear that Milo is upset about this change in plans. Luckily, he has the cook’s daughter, Meddy, there to keep him occupied. Meddy is interested in role playing games and they are quickly swept up into a world of their own making. As odd things begin to happen around the house, such as guests’ complaining of their things being stolen, they slip into their new identities and ferret out the culprits. But it quickly becomes clear that there’s an even larger mystery amongst the guests and their purposes for being in the house, and Milo and Meddy are the best people to figure out what’s going on.
One of the great things about this book is the pre-adolescent Milo learning to understand his own identity. He was adopted and looks very different from his parents – they are white and he is of Chinese descent – and he’s very sensitive to this. While he’s quick to feel anger and pain when he’s slighted as Milo, he is able to control his emotions in a more mature way when he allows himself to be his imaginary character. It was just incredible to watch unfold.
And YES, this is a great book to read in the winter. Not only are they snowed in and lose power at one point, but it’s full of deliciously described food, hot chocolate, tea, coffee knitting, ghosts, and stories by the fire. It’s a fabulous hygge story and I can’t wait to read the sequel!