Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs

peregrine.jpgA mysterious island.


 
An abandoned orphanage.


 
A strange collection of very curious photographs.


 
It all waits to be discovered in Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children, an unforgettable novel that mixes fiction and photography in a thrilling reading experience. As our story opens, a horrific family tragedy sets sixteen-year-old Jacob journeying to a remote island off the coast of Wales, where he discovers the crumbling ruins of Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children. As Jacob explores its abandoned bedrooms and hallways, it becomes clear that the children were more than just peculiar. They may have been dangerous. They may have been quarantined on a deserted island for good reason. And somehow—impossible though it seems—they may still be alive. 

A spine-tingling fantasy illustrated with haunting vintage photography,Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children will delight adults, teens, and anyone who relishes an adventure in the shadows.*

I went into this book not really knowing anything about it other than the fact that it has a cool cover and some of my friends enjoyed it, so the elements of historical fiction scattered throughout the novel were unexpected but really artfully employed. The parallel between the hollowgasts/wights and the Nazis was clear, and provided a convenient cover story for Grandpa Portman.

The vintage photographs really add an extra element to the story. I’m not sure I would have liked the novel as much without these visual additions, which show just how insanely imaginative the author is. I’m not sure exactly how much of the story was inspired by them, but it seems like many of the characters emerged from the people in the pictures. As someone who works in archives, I think it’s wonderful that these photographs are being shown the light of day all over the country and around the world. I only wish I knew the true stories behind some of them.

The story has been compared to Harry Potter, which is sort of an apt description. Each child has their own peculiarity that they are born with, and, like Harry, Jacob was unaware that there was anything special about him. This first book in the series felt largely like an introduction; there was not much character development by the end, though I expect that will change in the second and third books. Despite the fact that this book was meant to introduce the characters and the premise of the series, it was never boring, as initial tales can sometimes be. The pacing was very well done and the story was constantly moving forward.

This is the perfect book for Halloween month–it feels like a mix of Halloweentown, Hocus Pocus, and something all its own. I can’t wait to get my hands on Hollow City!

I went to see the movie adaptation on Sunday with my dad, who when asked if he was interested in seeing it said, “The one with the girl with the mouth in the back of her head? Yeah, sure, let’s go.” It’s always good to know weird runs in the family! My dad is probably at least partially responsible for my interest in SF/F, since he’s a huge scifi reader himself and always took me to see the new Star Wars and Harry Potter films.

The film stayed true to the book for about the first half to two-thirds. Toward the end, it started to really veer off into its own plot, but this is likely because this is a stand-alone film rather than a series as the books are and they needed to tie up the loose ends in their own way rather than following the lengthy twists and turns of a three-book series. The changes made didn’t detract from the story at all; in fact, I can gladly say my life is a little more complete after having seen one of my favorite actors, Samuel L Jackson, chowing down on a platter of eyeballs. It was really cool that they used the photographs from the books in the movie, and although it was unexpected, the battle between the skeleton army and the hollowgasts was a nice addition.

If you’re a huge stickler for movies being just like the books–skip the film. But if you don’t mind some necessary changes and truly enjoyed the story and the photographs, then definitely check out the film! It was extremely well done and I can’t wait for it to come out on DVD so I can watch it over again. Tim Burton was an excellent directorial choice, and Asa Butterfield makes a great Jacob.

*Cover image and synopsis are from Amazon.com.

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