Saturday, April 27, 2013

Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs

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Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children is a beautifully thought out spooky fantasy novel for young adults.

The story focuses on Jacob Portman who grew up listening to his grandpa, Abraham Portman, tell unusual stories about his childhood.  As he becomes a teenager, Jacob realizes that the stories of monsters and children with unique abilities can't possibly be true and tells his grandpa to stop telling him fairy tales.  Disappointed, Jacob’s grandpa doesn't tell him another story as long as he lives.

One day, Jacob receives a concerning call from his grandpa, who tells him that the monsters are close by.  After the call, Jacob head over to Abraham’s house and finds him missing.  Jacob searches the house and the wooded area behind the house and soon finds his grandpa, covered in blood and large gashes.  Before he dies, Abraham leaves Jacob with a clue that is the key to unlocking Abraham’s unusual past as well as solving his murder.

Adventure ensues as young Jacob forges ahead despite the doubts of everyone around him.  He quickly discovers that Abraham Portman’s stories may not be such fairy tales after all…

This wonderfully paced book kept me engaged and interested throughout every aspect of the story.  I can see even the most reluctant reader being engaged by the interesting details Riggs provides.  Entertainment Weekly described the novel as X-men: First Class with timetravel.  I might also call it a much darker version of Percy Jackson and the Lightning Thief by Rick Riordan.

One really neat feature of the book is that it offers the reader pictures of the peculiar children Abraham and Jacob describe.  
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In this Huffington Post article, Ransom Riggs discusses his love of searching for and collecting old photographs at flea markets.  He chose the spookiest ones out of his collection to write this story about.  This video from Rigg’s YouTube account shows his process of searching for old photos: 
I didn't know the picture were real when I first started reading the book, and the fact that they are real photos makes this book that much more interesting and spooky and offers countless ways to use this idea in the classroom.

The only negative thing I can come up with for this book is purely personal.  Some parts of this story are a little creepy.  BUT, I was reading it mostly at night after my family had gone to bed and I don’t particularly love creepy books or movies anyway.  However, despite that aspect, I still love this book and I can see most high school students liking the weirdness that pervades the pages of this book.

I think students would be able to connect to this text in a number of ways.  Jacob’s age is one way.  Jacob’s grandpa’s death as well as the time Jacob is forced to spend with a therapist are two more ways.   I can see this book being taught in an English class either on its own or paired with other fantasy/science fiction stories as part of a unit.  Based on the age of the characters, I would probably recommend this book to high school students.

Finally, I'm going to leave you with the book trailer for Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children and I highly recommend you take a couple minutes to watch it as it captures this book perfectly.


Zak Q said...

Seems like a really cool take on the "school for exceptional kids" formula. I like the creepy look and feel of the old pictures. And it looks like he executed the strange, almost circus-like feeling really well. Weird is good. Weird seems to get young readers interested.

And me, for that matter. This class is adding books to my reading list like crazy...

Jessica Pagliara said...

Wow, this seems very interesting. I would have to agree with you that it is a little creepy, but I'm still interested in it. I would probably have to read it in daylight when people are around me haha but it definitely seems like a book that would keep your attention.