Sunday, July 10, 2011

Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children

Sixteen-year-old Jacob suffers a harrowing experience on the day that his grandfather dies. Jacob has a mental breakdown, and his recovery involves intensive therapy.  When he decides to travel to Wales, the site of so many of his grandfather's stories about his childhood, his parents are skeptical.  But his therapist encourages the visit, and Jacob heads to Wales with his father, in search of the truth that must be buried there.

The stories involved his grandfather as a young boy being chased by monsters, horrible creatures with tentacles that emerged from their enormous mouths to snatch and devour their prey.  Jacob's grandfather had found sanctuary at an orphanage in Wales, a place that housed children with amazing and bizarre abilities.  There were even photographs that depicted some of these children - one is pictured on the book's cover, of the little girl who had to wear weighted shoes so she wouldn't float away.  There were other photos that Jacob had always looked at with amazement, of children hefting enormous rocks above their heads, or the invisible boy depicted by a suit of old-fashioned, empty clothing standing up by itself.

It wasn't until Jacob was older and learned that his grandfather was sent away from Poland during World War II by Jewish parents who later died, that he realized that the monsters his grandfather had always talked about were actually Nazis, and that all the stories were nothing more than metaphors for his grandfather's horrific childhood experiences.  The photos were clearly fakes, and Jacob resented his grandfather for fooling him for so long.


When Jacob travels to Wales, the site of the stories, he's not sure what he hopes to discover.  Something to reassure him that he hasn't lost his mind, perhaps.  But what he does find only leads to more questions, and the answers to those questions, discovered in the crumbling ruins of Miss Peregrine's orphanage, are stupefying.

What an amazing, creepy, fantastical book this is!  The atmospheric tale has shades of Poe and Lovecraft, but with an approachable teenage sensibility that is sure to draw both teen and adult readers in and keep them on the edge of their seats.  Jacob is a believable, likable hero, and the fantastical aspect of the book is skillfully handled.  It's one of those beautifully written stories that, while it includes supernatural elements, is much more than an entertaining genre read.  I particularly enjoyed the many compelling black-and-white photographs that are used as illustrations.  As I read I loved the fact that they fit the tale so perfectly.  I thought that they had been made to order for the book.  It wasn't until the afterword of the book that I learned that all the pictures are authentic vintage photographs, lent from the personal archives of ten collectors.  That made me appreciate the author's flexibility and creativity even more.

I enjoyed this one so much that I am planning it as this year's book to read aloud to my children as our annual Halloween read.

Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs (Quirk Books, 2011)

Source: Review copy from the publisher

Also reviewed at:
Bloggers [heart] Books:  "I loved the writing, it was one of those books that had me putting little scraps of paper throughout the book to mark the pages with quotes that I liked."
The Crazy Bookworm:  "This is a book that should come to the big screen. It is loaded with Tim Burton-esque qualities that I would love to see come to life."
Stainless Steel Droppings: "...a genre-bending, genre-blending strange and wonderful novel built upon a foundation of the interpersonal relationships between children and adults. It is an accessible story with broad appeal."

10 comments:

  1. I really want to read this! I must buy it, I think.

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  2. Kailana - I do think this one would really appeal to you. And I forgot to mention what a beautifully made book this is - it is definitely worth buying. I'd love to hear your thoughts on this one!

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  3. This one is on my radar and it's moved up a notch since you said you liked it!

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  4. This one sounds like a nice creepy book, exactly what I want to read on a hot summer day :P

    Also, I heard some mixed reviews about it, but your review has tipped the scales in the favor of reading it. I probably would've read it anyway to see those awesomely eerie photos!

    --Sharry

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  5. Sharry - Oh, I hope you like it. I know it's not to everyone's taste, but it touches on several elements that I absolutely love, so I enjoyed it immensely!

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  6. Cat - Oops, sorry! I didn't see your comment there. I think you would enjoy this, although it does have a lot of elements of horror to it. I'm not sure how much you enjoy horror. It has memorable characters and a really fun and interesting premise. I'd love to hear your thoughts on this!

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  7. Now I'm sad I turned this book down! I had no idea there was a WWII connection, which I find fascinating. I'll have to read this at some point. I've linked to your review on War Through the Generations.

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  8. Anna - Thanks for linking to my review! The WWII thing is pretty central to the book, but more from the point of view of how it affected the kids on the island (bombs falling, etc.) I rarely accept review copies these days, but I just couldn't resist the description (and cover) of this one. I hope you'll get a chance to read it.

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  9. Roben just told me about this book! I must read it, sounds awesome.

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  10. Devinoni - I'd be happy to lend you my copy. I'll bring it on Sunday. :-)

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