Clarion Books: New York, 2014
Miles is readdddy to party...or rather enjoy a quiet winter holiday break with just his parents in their smuggler friendly inn, Greenglass House, so named for the beautiful stained glass windows and rumored to be the site of the founders hidden treasure. Winter break usually means an empty inn instead of the usual motley crew of offbeat smugglers, and Miles is just cracking the spine on a good book when he is interrupted by the jingling summons that portends a guest. One guest leads to another and then yet another, and suddenly, unexpectedly, the inn is nearly full of a curious cast of characters. Even more curious is that each guest seems to have some prior knowledge of the others, and soon things become even more complicated when break-ins occur resulting in the disappearance of personal items that have a curious connection to the Inn and it’s founder, and a massive snowstorm rolls through and traps them all for the forseeable future. Miles is understandably perturbed that his vacation has been a bit ruined, until Meddy, who arrives with the housekeepers, enlists his help in a role playing game that may or may not double as a way to find out the secrets the guests all seem to be keeping before anything else goes missing. Before long, Miles realizes he may be on a hunt for more than personal treasures, as might the thief in their midst.
This is perhaps one of the most excellent middle grade novels I’ve read in years, and I don’t say that lightly (don’t worry Penderwicks, you still have real estate claims on my soul). It is incredibly fun to read, never panders to the age of the intended audience, keeps even seasoned readers guessing until the twist of an ending, and frankly, warms the cockles of the blackest hearts! It made me feel super cozy in the dead of the worst winter in my own memory. There is treasure, adventure, mystery, and friendship. Themes of challenging yourself, courage, and creativity abound, and this book deserves serious accolades for not only having a non-white (he’s Chinese) protagonist (huge snaps on this front alone), but one adopted by (white) parents of a different race. In short, Kate Milibrand doesn’t sugarcoat or tidily wrap up Miles’ occasional feelings of abandonment, deep love for his adoptive parents, shame about fantasizing about his birth parents, or about how he feels about the confusion he sees in strangers when they see him with his parents. It’s extraordinary and I hope all youth librarians take note to include this wonderful book in their arsonal. Excellent for kids aged 9-99, fans of the Goonies, and anyone who likes a good story!PS. Thanks for putting this on my radar, Sam!