Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children Book Review

Author: Ransom Riggs. Release date: 2011. Publisher:  Quirk Books. ISBN: 9781594744761.
Annotation:  Growing up, Jacob’s head was filled with his grandfather’s tales of growing up in an orphanage on an island near Wales. This island was home to fantastical children with otherworldly talents, all looked after by a wise old bird. At first, Jacob believes his beloved grandfather’s stories wholeheartedly. But as he grows up, he begins to wonder if they are simply the workings of a delusional old man.
Personal thoughts:  I really enjoyed this book and am so excited that it seems to be getting quite popular. I think Riggs does a fantastic job of writing a very compelling story that can be enjoyed by teens and adults alike. The vintage photos are great, and I really fell in love with the world Riggs created. I can’t wait for the sequel, and the movie version!
Plot summary: Jacob lives an ordinary life with an ordinary family in an ordinary town. The only excitement he has are the stories his beloved Grandfather Portman tells him about his youth growing up in an orphanage after escaping the Nazis in his native Poland.  Unlike other orphanages, this one was magical: the sun always shone, the other children had fantastic powers, and they were all lovingly looked after by a wise bird. Most importantly, his grandfather, and the other children, were safe on the island from the monsters who hunted them. Jacob believes his grandfather’s stories with all his heart, but as he grows up he begins to wonder the truthfulness behind his tales. All of the old photographs his grandfather showed him, of children levitating, hoisting enormous boulders, and making fire in their hands, start to look fake and Jacob, and the rest of his family, begin to doubt the aging man’s sanity. After his grandfather is brutally murdered, however, Jacob is convinced there was some truth behind his stories of monsters lurking in the shadows hunting the children, especially since Jacob believes he saw the very monster that killed his grandfather. In order to uncover the mystery behind his grandfather’s death, and restore his own sanity, Jacob and his father travel to a remote island off the coast of Wales, the location of the peculiar orphanage.
Review:  At times touching, horrifying, mysterious and always interesting, Ransom Riggs begins a very promising series with this page-turning novel. Almost as important as the text are the vintage photos scattered throughout the book. Riggs makes sure to point out that these are actual photographs collected over the years by various enthusiasts, and their appeal adds enormously to the story. Many of the characters introduced in the story are illustrated in the photos, helping to set the mood for what is actually a very interesting and original story. Jacob is a compelling protagonist, particularly because of the sweet relationship he has with his late grandfather. As he uncovers more about his grandfather’s past, and his own future, the reader begins to genuinely care about Jacob and the other children under the care of the mysterious Miss Peregrine. The novel is always full of twists and turns that keep the reader on their toes, closing with a cliffhanger that leaves a great deal of anticipation for the second installment. Although the date of the sequel’s release has not been announced yet, Fox Studios has already won the movie rights for what is certain to be a very successful franchise for Riggs. An exciting beginning to a wonderful series.
Genre: Fantasy
Reading level: Grade 7+

Similar titles: The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making by Catherynne M. Valente, X-Men series.
Themes:  Magical powers/abilities, Wales/England, World War II, grandfather/grandson relationships, sanity/insanity, time-travel, orphans/outcasts.  
Awards/Reviews:  New York Times best seller.   
Series Information: First novel in Miss Peregrine’s Home For Peculiar Children series. Movie set to be released in 2013.

Discussion Questions:

- Do you think the pictures add to the story? Could the story be told without the pictures?

- Why do you think Jacob has such a close relationship with his grandfather?

- Do you think Jacob is "crazy"? Did your opinion of him change while reading the novel?

- Did you learn anything about the United Kingdom or World War II while reading this novel?

- Do you think this novel could be adapted successfully into a movie? Why or why not?

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