Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children

Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs

I know this is not a brand-new book, but I'm just getting myself caught up and acclimated to the world of YA literature.  Being a middle school librarian is so fun because there are SO MANY great books written for this age level that I really want to read for myself!  And so many students here at McKamy are prolific readers who love to have conversations about books.

I remember seeing this book, Miss Peregrine,  a few years ago.  I thought the cover looked creepy and interesting, but I never had the time to read it.  I forgot about it until I saw it in our library and thought I'd give it a try.  The picture on the cover was intriguing...I picked it up and started reading without reading the back cover or any reviews - something I like to do occasionally. Sometimes it's fun to read a book 'blind' with no expectations!

Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children starts out with a very dreamlike quality.  The main character, Jacob, recalls his grandfather and the odd stories he would always tell him about an orphanage on a Welsh island he lived at when he was a young boy.  Jacob's grandfather escaped from Poland during World War II, but the rest of his family perished in the Nazi persecution of the Jews. Jacob's grandfather also had unique photographs that went along with his stories:  a levitating girl, children dressed in strange costumes, a boy covered with bees, another boy holding up a boulder with one arm.... Jacob never really believed the stories but thought they were interesting nonetheless.

Jacob's grandfather calls him at work one day flustered and out of sorts.  Jacob's parents can't leave their jobs to go check on him, so Jacob gets his only friend to take him to his grandfather's house. When he arrives he can't find his Grandpa Portman in his house, and the house is a disaster.  Jacob searches the woods behind his grandfather's house and finds his grandfather wounded and bleeding. He knows his grandfather is dying, and is trying to tell him something.  Grandfather tells him to "go to the island, find the bird, in the loop, on the other side of the old man's grave, September 3, 1940."  

Traumatized by the experience of seeing his grandfather die, Jacob's parents begin taking him to see a psychiatrist named Dr. Golan to help him deal with his experience.  After Dr. Golan thinks Jacob has made progress in dealing with his grandfather's death, he recommend that Jacob's parents take him to the island he thinks Jacob's grandfather was referring to:  the Welsh island where he was in the orphanage.

Jacob and his father travel to the remote island of Cairnholm, off the coast of Wales.  The tiny island only has one restaurant with one room to rent above it.  There is only one telephone on the entire island.  Jacob starts exploring with the help of two unfriendly boys who live on the island, and finally finds the ruin of the large orphanage house.  He explores the dangerously decrepit old house and is sadly falling apart.  After talking with a local expert on the history of the island, Jacob finds out that all of the children at Miss Peregrine's Home died in an air raid of the island during World War II, on September 3, 1940 -- the same date that his grandfather mysteriously mentioned.

He returns to the house once again, saddened by the knowledge that all of the children who lived there perished.  On this visit though, Jacob is met by a familiar young girl who asks him "Abe, is that you?"  Jacob realizes he does recognize the girl - from one of his grandfather's old photographs.  And then he makes the discovery that the children from the orphanage are indeed alive - but are they also in danger?

I don't want to give away more of the story - you'll have to read it for yourself.  I know that, for me, this book was not what I thought it was going to be.  I thought it might be a horror story, or at least have some creepy elements, but once I got into it, I found it to be more of a fantasy story.  The big mysteries in the book are revealed a little too late in my opinion; there is a lot of build up and the book is slow for the first 100 pages or so.  It also reminded me of another book, Tuck Everlasting, where the main character has to make a decision as to their fate.  The book also ends in a way that lends itself to having a sequel, which has already been published.  It's called Hollow City.

The thing I found to be unique and memorable about this book is its use of the old vintage photographs.  It was almost as if someone gave the author the photographs and challenged him to write a story around them.  Even if the story was a little uneven, it was an interesting and quick read.

Happy Reading!
Mrs. Cox

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