Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children

When the advanced copy of Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children came into the bookstore, we passed it around and laughed over how it smelled. There was a serious amount of ink in the book (there are a large number of full-page photos), and that much ink smells strange. But then I read the back cover and I forgot about how it smelled. (Note: I haven't picked up an actual copy to see how it smells.)

When Jacob's grandfather (with whom he was very close) dies suddenly and tragically, Jacob understandably has a hard time dealing with it. He becomes obsessed over the stories his grandfather used to tell him about his youth at a strange orphanage in Wales and the odd photographs he had as proof. So obsessed, in fact, that his therapist and parents think he should visit the tiny island in Wales and see for himself that there is nothing strange going on. Well, that backfires. Wouldn't be much of a story if it didn't.

Like I mentioned, the book is peppered with photographs of odd children, many doing impossible things like floating or creating fire in their hands. Author Ransom Riggs is also a photographer and collector of old photos. He began collecting the images in the book and quickly saw a story forming; he collected more to fill in specific gaps in the story as he wrote. The outcome is that the reader gets a much firmer grasp on these odd people than if there were no images to go along with the text. I'm not saying I want to see this tactic taken with too many more books (I'm sure it would get old), but I love the interplay between the text and images in this case.

The story is fast-paced and quirky. I wanted to know more and more about this odd little Welsh island, both past and present. Jacob's relationship with his father, an ornithologist who accompanies him on his trip, is very realistic, especially their exasperation with each other. As the story went on, the mythology became more and more complex, and there is clearly more than one book's worth of story to be told. Definitely an enjoyable read that is great for both the YA and the adult sets.

4/5 stars

Disclaimer: This book was provided by the publisher through my bookstore job.

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