“I went from room to room, examining their contents like an archaeologist. There were wooden toys moldering in a box; crayons on a windowsill, their colors dulled by the light of ten thousand afternoons; a dollhouse with dolls inside, lifers in an ornate prison. In a modest library, the creep of moisture had bowed the shelves into crooked smiles. I ran my finger along the balding spines, as if considering pulling one out to read. There were the classics like Peter Pan and The Secret Garden, histories written by authors forgotten by history, textbooks in Latin and Greek. This has been their classroom, I realized, and Miss Peregrine, their teacher.”
Being the cover judger that I am, the levitating girl dressed in an old-fashioned smock and wearing a tiara found on the cover of Riggs’ Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children had caught my attention numerous times in the book store but it wasn’t until a recent trip to the library that I gave into my curiosity and brought it home to read. It’s a pattern I am beginning to notice; the books I often hesitate to read are usually the most enjoyed.
Riggs has woven the intriguing story of Jacob whose grandfather tantalized his imagination during his childhood with stories of the home he was sent to in an effort to flee the devastation of the Second World War and, more importantly, the assortment of peculiar and talented children he lived with there. As Jacob grows older he naturally begins to question those stories, but when his grandfather is murdered by a terrifying monster that only he can see, Jacob convinces his father to come with him to the tiny island in Wales where the home in his grandfather’s stories is located. During his investigation, Jacob stumbles upon the very place his grandfather spoke of, trapped in a time bubble. There he meets the very peculiar children he was told about; Olive the floating girl who must always wear heavy shoes to stop from floating away, Millard an invisible boy, Emma who can create fire with her hands and the woman who looks after them all, their headmistress, Miss Peregrine. Jacob is faced with many surprises, including the truth that he too might be “peculiar” and when a very real danger threatens him and the residents of the house, Jacob must decide which world he will stay in, the one he came from or the one he has newly discovered.
Stories like this are rarely seen in the Teen section anymore. I don’t want to call it a fairy tale by any means, because it contains a healthy dose of modernism as well, but it certainly had more fanciful elements that made me reminisce about those imaginative stories that I valued in my youth. Maybe it’s the element of the unbelievable, or the fact that this book would appeal to a younger audience and individuals struggling with their own unique talents, thoughts and emotions, but I know this is a book I would have appreciated just as much if I have read it 10 or even 15 years ago. It’s a wonderful story infused with creative characters and fascinating peculiarities that ensare your imagination.
The most impressive success is how Riggs created an all-encompassing world of strangeness. I have always loved the idea of the unknown and the unbelievable. Circuses, unbelievable creatures, the strange and perhaps bizarre; those are all things that have captivated my interest since I was a child and Riggs has definitely capitalized on the realm of mysterious ideas. What makes the story even more enjoyable are the photos that Riggs included, which provide a visual of a character or an environment. I found myself anxiously waiting for the next photograph, eager to see what new or bizarre proof he offered. After finishing the book itself, I read the acknowledgement and in it Riggs gives thanks to the countless people who have spent decades combing through old pictures at garage sales and who permitted him to include those exceptional visual finds in his novel. The fact that the pictures aren’t staged (or at least Mr. Riggs seems to imply such) makes the story even better for some reason. This is not the only book out there at the moment that includes drawings or pictures accompanying text (the first that comes to mind is The Invention of Hugo Cabret) and sometimes this addition can be an improvement or a hindrance to the overall affect. In Miss Peregrine’s case it only increases the affect of an already intriguing storyline and adds a special something by offering a visual representation of the peculiar individuals Jacob encounters.
I loved, loved, loved this book. I felt that familiar excitement from my childhood when reading something about the fascinating and unknown. When a book grabs you, it grabs you. Thankfully, Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children is not a one-trick pony and its sequel Hollow City will be coming out in January, 2014. I will be there the day it’s released to claim my copy and once more emerge myself into this wonderful world of the strange and peculiar that Ransom Riggs has crafted so well.
Devon – a1000booklife
Other books by Ransom Riggs: Talking Pictures: Images and Messages Rescued from the Past (2012)