Books are very powerful things so trying to find suitable titles for different age groups can be a struggle, especially when the children are too old for kid’s books but not quite old enough to be reading adult content. Luckily, the young adult market is getting bigger all the time and there are some excellent titles for 12-18 year olds to select from. Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children was the debut novel by Ransom Riggs and stayed on best seller lists for over 2 years, selling millions of copies, has been translated into over 40 languages and has since been transformed into a movie. It is a story of courage and not fitting into society as we know it, perfect for teenage/young adult readers.
Before writing this book, the author Ransom Riggs as a collector of found photography and vernacular photographs, originally wanted to publish a book of vintage photos. His publisher persuaded him to write a narrative to accompany the photos and this bestselling book was born and was the beginning of a series of books.
Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children is a story about being fitting in, courage and finding your way in the world. It features peculiar children, monsters and a whole load of weird and wonderful found photographs. It is a story that combines fiction around some very real and strange photographs.
Jacob Portman is sixteen years old and lives in Florida, USA. Since he was a young boy, he has been entertained with tales about a remote and mysterious island off the coast of Wales, where his grandfather grew up in an orphanage. But this was no ordinary orphanage, it was home to some very peculiar children that had some very strange and wonderful gifts. These tales were fantastic stories, including tales of his grandfather escaping from monsters that were hunting him and other children in Poland during World War II, just because they were different from others. As Jacob gets older, he comes to believe that these stories were actually stories of very real monsters, monsters that were found in crisp army uniforms.
When Jacob’s grandfather is attacked and murdered, Jacob is instructed to go to Wales and find the ruined abandoned orphanage and look for the “wise old bird” that guards it. Deciding to fulfil his grandfather’s wishes and embarking on his journey to Wales, he is soon on an adventure that will change the course of his life forever.
Travelling thousands of miles, when Jacob reaches Wales and discovering the remote island and its small community of his grandfather’s tales, he locates the ruins of the old orphanage. After exploring the crumbling ruins and its rooms he comes across a box of old photographs featuring some very peculiar images of children. These photos are very similar to ones Jacob’s grandfather had shown him whilst he was growing up.
Remembering his grandfather’s stories and combining the tales with the old photographs he sets out trying to find the “wise old bird”. As this orphanage existed in the 1940s could she, or any of the children that lived there, still be alive? And if so, how does he begin to find them? And what will happen if he does?
“I used to dream about escaping my ordinary life, but my life was never ordinary. I had simply failed to notice how extraordinary it was.”Ransom Riggs, Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children
Overall, Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children is a fantastic fantasy novel for young adults and adults alike. The novel is built around a strange collection of real found photographs in a sepia style, all featuring surrealist images, Ransom Riggs has managed to create a very interesting and exciting adventure novel about being different, fitting in, courage, friendship and finding yourself around this collection of old photographs.
Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children is narrated from the point of view of sixteen year old protagonist Jacob, who is still coming to terms with his grandfather’s death/murder. His grandfather was deemed somewhat of a recluse and maybe a little bit crazy due to his fantastic tales of orphaned children who had some very peculiar traits: being able to levitate, an invisible boy, a boy with bees living inside of him, a girl who can create fire with her hands, super strong boulder lifting children and lots more. On the advice of Jacob’s counsellor, Jacob and his father, travel to an island off the coast of Wales to find out for himself if any of these stores are indeed real and help him cope with his grief.
With the assistance of the very peculiar found photographs taken from the authors own collection we are taken on a fantastical tale featuring a group of children that would not be out of place on X-Men. The photographs are littered throughout the book and do an excellent job of helping the reader visualise just what the children and their strange and bizarre talents look like, and really give the story a lot of life.
The story is very well written. It is extremely easy to read, elegantly told and will appeal to a broad section of readers, young and old. Whilst the story is essentially about children and being different, it also features themes of death and loss, grief, love, loneliness, belonging, fear and self-esteem.
It does have some reasonably complex themes of time travel, time loops, parallel universes and strange monsters but Ransom Riggs exquisite prose provides plenty of detail so that even the youngest teenage reader can grasp the context of the story with relative ease. These small details help make the story.
There are lots of peculiar children featured within the story, all with a vast array of peculiarities and strange talents, but not many were explored in detail. There are five more books in the series, so there is plenty of time and scope to get to learn more about the other wonderful characters (at least I hope we do).
Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children is an excellent, powerful and thrilling fantasy action-adventure story that packs a punch. It hits the ground running and you really don’t want it to end. It is an eerie and creepy fantasy story set against the backdrop of World War II and features some rather bizarre and strange characters that just burst out from the pages. Whilst suitable for teens (I would say 14 upwards) some of the themes are be a bit on the dark side with threats of violence, drinking to mask problems, some bad language, sexual innuendos, mentions of adultery and even incest, you might want to consider how emotionally mature your child is before giving them this book to read.
A fascinating novel where the story is engaging and thought-provoking. The addition of the peculiar vintage sepia photographs lends it an air of weird authenticity. A young adult novel that not only finds a home with teenage children but with adults of all ages. An excellent read.
RRP: £14.99 (Hardback) / £8.99 (Paperback) / £6.29 (Kindle)