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Bluecrowne: A Greenglass House Story

Book review by
Andrea Beach, Common Sense Media
Bluecrowne:  A Greenglass House Story Book Poster Image
Engaging fantasy adventure trades ghosts for magic.

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this book.

Educational Value

Vocabulary like "sutler" and "victualer" may encourage readers to look up meanings. Some words and phrases in Chinese are translated, and a few have context clues. Author's note provides resources for more information on sailing, navigation, Chinese alchemy, fireworks, the early 1800s setting.

Positive Messages

Time works on everything, and nothing stays the same. Instead of avoiding change or hiding from it, become a part of it and bring the memories of what you've loved with you. Don't ignore those little voices telling you when something isn't right -- listen to your instincts.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Lucy is a terrific role model for girls, young women: She's brave, clever, loyal, defies gender stereotypes. For a 12-year-old, she has a lot of advanced sailing skills, wants nothing more than to always be at sea. Her blended family, both racially and by a second marriage, is a great model of love, support, loyalty. Crew on her father's ship are loyal, devoted. Villains mostly seem motivated by trying to make their way in a world dominated by evil. Other characters are mysterious, usually not what they seem.

Violence

During battle at sea, Lucy sees dead body leaving trail of red as it's dragged away. Blood's never directly mentioned by name but clearly implied in descriptions of different shades of red streaking, trailing, staining, etc. Gunshot heard; victim falls to ground. Child disappears in large explosion. Lucy's grabbed around the neck -- not hard, but as clear warning from bad guy. A fight with magical abilities mostly involving fire. Bad guys talk a lot about kidnapping, how to face and defeat enemies, and directly threaten to kill once. Scariness from characters in danger, some eerie atmospheres.

Sex
Language

"Arse," "son of a bitch," "bastard" (calling names), "hell," "damn."

Consumerism
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

One setting is a tavern; characters are mentioned several times drinking pints, whiskey. Seven-year-old Liao sometimes drinks very watered-down grog. Mention of being dosed with laudanum after a serious injury. Cigar smoking.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Bluecrowne is a prequel or origin story to the popular Greenglass House books, and takes place in the early 1800s, a few years before the events of The Left-Handed Fate. It stands well on its own, but if you've read the other two, you'll enjoy making connections among them. There are no ghosts here, but a hefty dose of magical fantasy instead. Violence isn't frequent and includes a sea battle where Lucy sees a dead body, a child disappearing after a large explosion, villains who threaten to kill and who are planning a kidnapping, and a fight with magical fire abilities. Blood's never directly mentioned but described as shades of red trailing, staining, etc. There's no sexual content at all. Lucy is a great role model for girls because she defies gender stereotypes and shows character strengths like bravery, loyalty, resourcefulness, and willingness to work hard for what she wants. The Bluecrowne family is a great model for cultural blending and strong, loving relationships between step-parent and child, and between half siblings. Overall messages are positive, but not strongly conveyed, about keeping memories with you as you grow, and as you learn how to adapt to change and find ways to move forward. Occasional strong language like "son of a bitch" and "damn" make it appropriate for tweens and up.

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What's the story?

In BLUECROWNE: A GREENGLASS HOUSE STORY, Lucy is heartbroken because she has to leave behind the life at sea she loves so much. Lucy's father, Captain Bluecrowne, no longer wants to expose Lucy, her half-brother, Liao, or her stepmother, Xiaoming, to the dangers of privateering after Lucy was seriously injured in a battle at sea. So he brings them all to live in a strange mansion high on a hill in the town of Nagspeake. Try as she might to make the new house feel like home, Lucy's heart will always belong to the sea. While exploring their new hometown, Lucy and Liao meet a couple of strange peddlers, one of whom shares Liao's love of fireworks and explosions. Lucy's so busy fixing up her little boat, a small consolation for losing her seagoing life, that she doesn't start to wonder about why the peddlers are so interested in her brother until he mysteriously disappears. Lucy and Xiaoming will have to confront the infamous and mysterious Ironmonger and outwit or overcome the villains Tregemine and Blister to have any hope of getting Liao back.

Is it any good?

Kate Milford's prequel to the popular Greenglass House books is an engaging fantasy adventure that takes us back to the imaginative world of Nagspeake, this time in the year 1810. Ghosts from the past are traded in here for magical abilities to move through time and to manipulate fire. Like the others, it would make a fun read-aloud, or make for an exciting and absorbing adventure for independent readers.

Some of the whimsy and mystery of the world of Nagspeake isn't quite as fully realized as in the Greenglass books, and overall the tone is a bit more serious. But the large cast of characters are as colorful as we've come to expect, and the story moves along at a good, tight pace. Tweens will relate to Lucy's struggles with disappointment and admire her courage and pluck. And of course they'll keep turning the pages through danger, adventure, excitement, heartbreak, family love, and sacrifice.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about how Bluecrowne portrays Lucy as a great role model. What are her character strengths? How does she defy gender stereotypes?

  • Why are books with magical abilities so popular? What do we love about them? What are some of your favorites?

  • Have you read any of the Greenglass House books, or any of Kate Milford's other books that share characters with this one? Which is your favorite, or which book would you like to read next? Why?

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