Sunday, July 17, 2011

Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children, by Ransom Riggs- Review

It's easy to despair, sitting here in the crazy future that is 2011, of seeing anything fresh or different in the arts. Sometimes it seems like every idea has been had, and ever possible story line plundered and all you'll read is re-workings and watered down versions of story's you loved.  But then something great and fresh and new blows into your hands, something like Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children, and you realize there is a whole world of art left out there for those who are willing to go and look for it.
Growing up, Jacob's grandfather regaled him with stories of his life of adventures.  Including stories about the orphanage he grew up in filled with unusual children who's talents became more and more unlikely and  believable as Jacob gets older.  It takes his grandfathers sudden death and last confusing words to lead Jacob on his own adventure to discover his grandfathers past and all the wonders it encompassed.

This was such a fantastical mix of history, circa 1920's circus strangeness, children's adventure and creepiness, wrapped up in the most beautiful packaged book I've ever owned (that wasn't a coffee table book).  The original concept stemmed from vintage photos, of the kind found in mildewing boxes in the back of your grandparents closets or in antique stores.  I've been known to collect the odd few as well as vintage post cards (it's pretty neat to read the little what-I've-been-up-to paragraphs from a mystery vacationer 70 years ago), and so it hardly surprises me someone finally put a story together inspired by some.

However, what did surprise me is how great the story was.  I have to admit when Quirk first pitched the book to me for review I thought it sounded really neat but I had my doubts.  I theorized the pictures would be the draw and the story would play second fiddle and mostly be an excuse for the pictures themselves.  Instead I found an engaging and super fun story highlighted by these fantastic vintage photos.  It comes together as almost a gallery exhibit meets Jean-Pierre Jeunet movie, but in a novel, and yes, it's as crazy and off the cuff as that sounds.

Sweeping, obscure vistas, and an almost magical ambiance charge this tale right through to it's surprising conclusion (sequel anyone?), but the whimsy of the Peculiar Children are what makes it work.  Well that and the mysterious creepiness, everyone likes a little mystery in their creepy.  It's definitely ranking up there in the some of the best things I've read in 2011 category, and certainly one of the most unique things I've read in quite some time.
Suffice it to say, this isn't an read you want to pass you by, not to mention, author Ransom Riggs has recently sold the film rights so make sure to experience this in book format before casting info and filming talk starts to intrude on your personal imaginings of it.

PS- as a middle school book, don't be shy to share it with the younger audience, but even better yet, this would make a supreme book to read to someone.  In fact, I just might have to get busy and have myself a child so I can do just that!

Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children, by Ransom Riggs
Published by Quirk Books, June 2011
Head on over to Quirk Books to sample the first three chapters
Check out Ransom Riggs blog
Buy Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children on Amazon
My copy of Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children was kindly provided to me by Random House


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