Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs is one of those unique books that just doesn’t come along every day. It’s written around old, peculiar photographs found by the author which he’s compiled and incorporated into the story. It’s delightful and enchanting, with a great premise and a good number of oddities. It deals with time-travel, the importance of taking a stand and not shrinking away from what the world might fling at you. Riggs’ writing style is humorous and whimsical, and he’s drawn me into a world where the strange lurks just around the corner; and the best part: he’s left me waiting for more.
It begins with the mysterious death of Jacob’s grandfather, a man who has long raved about odd things and strange beings lurking about the world. Jacob was very close with his grandfather, whom everyone else thought was just slightly off his nut. Upon his grandfather’s death, Jacob begins to see some terrifying apparitions, which prompt him to dig into his grandfather’s past. As Jacob goes through his grandfather’s things, he comes across old photographs and letters, which lead him to Wales, to a home where his grandfather lived as a refugee during World War II. When he gets there, he finds a whole new world open to him. I don’t want to go into too much plot detail, as the surprise is really a big part of it.
One of the best parts of this novel is the atmosphere. From the beginning, with the death of Jacob’s grandfather, the novel is infused with a sinister mood. Riggs’ descriptions need little help from the pictures he uses, but they add a nice extra bit of eeriness to the already off-kilter sensation. From the imposition of death and evil creatures to the safe affluence of Jacob’s suburban neighborhood, to the isolated island which seems to be perpetually in “a dark and stormy night” with creepy, creaky buildings and odd children lurking in the corners. There is a wonderfully peculiar–there, I said it–cast of characters who are at once very British and also very outrageous. Furthermore, Jacob is genuinely funny and interesting Finally, Riggs plays with time and space quite a bit here–one of my favorite things. It works really well, and he doesn’t talk down to his younger readers.
This was one of the best books I read this year, and I recommend it to anyone from junior high upward. It’s intriguing, unique, and I have no idea where the forthcoming sequel might take us.
This is a Top 10 Reads of 2011 book.