Friday, July 8, 2011

Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs

Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children
This new YA novel incorporates literature and photography to host a stunning, visually appealing, and entertaining reading experience.

   Jacob has always had a special relationship with his grandfather, Abe.  During WWII, Abe was sent to the island of Cairnholm to escape Nazi imprisonment.  He always told his grandson that he resided in an orphanage inhabited by unique, magical children and a strict but benevolent headmistress, Miss Peregrine.  Abe's son and grandson have always assumed that these stories were fairy tales that emerged in response to a truth too awful to tell - even the pictures Abe offers as proof seem altered and manipulated.  The photographs feature children in strange poses, such as a girl hovering above the ground or a skinny young boy holding a bolder over his head.  But when Jacob gets a strange, frantic call from his grandfather and then finds him bleeding to death in the woods, Abe's last words inspire Jacob to find out all he can about his grandfather's life on the island orphanage - and what he finds is more extraordinary than he ever could have imagined.

   If Edgar Allan Poe had dreamed up an orphanage, it would resemble the one described in this book.  Jacob finds that the children are preserved in a time "loop," which is basically a time warp of a recurring period of 24 hours that allows its inhabitants to live forever, unchanging as long as they remain inside.  Yet time seems to pass normally for them even though the date is always the same.  So technically, most of the "children" in the orphanage are 80 years old or more.  Jacob describes the island's children like this: "I knew plenty of eighty -year-olds in Florida, and these kids acted nothing like them.  It was as if the constance of their lives here, the unvarying days - this perpetual deathless summer - had arrested their emotions as well as their bodies, sealing them in their youth like Peter Pan and his lost boys" (Page 166).  In short, the island is a strange, creepy place, and what Jacob finds about the history of these children and his grandfather is even more unnerving.

   What I liked most about this book is its unique formatting.  Ransom Riggs includes many photographs to depict the characters in the story, and according to the index, the majority of these photos are real, unedited photographs that the author borrowed from people's personal collections, like the one you see on the cover. The effect is much more intense when you can actually visualize some of these eccentric characters that the narrator describes.  The only thing I didn't really like about the novel was the way the author describes some of the regular townspeople on the island.  They came across as stereotypical and dramatically embellished - more like caricatures than characters.  But it's an easy complaint to disregard when you consider how stunning the rest of the book is.