It’s been three long years since we were first introduced to Milo Pine and his parents in their fabulous inn at Greenglass House. I was very excited that the new book was nominated for the Cybils, so that I had to read it. The publisher was even kind enough to give me a review copy, as it’s popular enough at my library that I wasn’t sure I’d be able to get a library copy in time. And then I saved it until right before Christmas – a perfect holiday book, both revisit beloved characters and to rejoice that as crazy as the holidays are at my house, at least they’re less crazy than Milo’s Christmas.
Ghosts of Greenglass House by Kate Milford. Clarion Books, 2017.
In the book, just a year has passed since the tumultuous events of Greenglass House. Milo is home for the holidays and feeling grinchy. There’s been no sign of his friend Meddy since last year, there’s no snow, and an overly enthusiastic art student has decided to extend his stay to keep sketching the windows. Under all that, Milo is dealing with discomfort at a teacher who’s been singling him out for being Chinese and adopted. Things start to head back towards the kind of Greenglass Christmas we remember when old friends Clem and Georgie show up after a caper gone wrong, needing a place to hunker down for a few days. They were looking for a cache left by legendary smuggler Violet Cross, including her rumored derroterro, a map to the unmappable waterways around Nagspeake. Then, a group of Waits arrives at the door, including caroling, a chimney sweep, and a spooky skull hobby horse. It’s an old Nagspeake Christmas tradition (I love old traditions!) – but as ash from the untrained sweep spreads over the living room and one of the guests passes out after drinking his own punch, things veer back to craziness. Can Milo find his courage again? And can he solve the mysteries without his old adventuring partner?
I’ve already said how much I love these characters – Betsy Bird talked eloquently in her review of Greenglass House at a Fuse #8 Production about how Milford breaks the rules about parents in middle grade novels needing to be dead or incompetent. Milo’s parents are still doing the tough work here of giving Milo space to be independent while still being supportive. Even so, Milo is getting old enough to notice their humanity and recognize when they, too, need support. The parts about Milo figuring out what to do about his teacher, talking with his parents and adult Chinese adoptee Owen, were thoughtful leavened with humor. I’m noticing the background, here, while the mystery – missing objects, and a new crew of characters that clearly includes both future friends and some villains – takes the foreground. Brandy at Random Musings of a Bibliophile felt it didn’t quite hold up to the high standard of the first one, but I didn’t notice. I was just too happy to be reunited with some favorite old characters, leavened with the power of remembered traditions and imagination.
I’m adding both of these to my list of favorite Christmas fantasies.
This book has been nominated for the Cybils award. This review reflects my opinion, not that of the Cybils committee.