Abridged synopsis from the official Quirk Books website:
“A mysterious island. An abandoned orphanage. And a strange collection of very curious photographs.
It all waits to be discovered in Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children, an unforgettable novel that mixes fiction and photography in a thrilling reading experience. As our story opens, a horrific family tragedy sets sixteen-year-old Jacob journeying to a remote island off the coast of Wales, where he discovers the crumbling ruins of Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children.
As Jacob explores its abandoned bedrooms and hallways, it becomes clear that the children who once lived here—one of whom was his own grandfather— were more than just peculiar. They may have been dangerous. They may have been quarantined on a desolate island for good reason. And somehow—impossible though it seems—they may still be alive…”
My Grandfather is an extraordinary, albeit “peculiar” man. He has always been mysterious, to say the very least.
He was adopted as a young boy, and although he has since unearthed his buried past, for years I entertained the notion that he had been a young Prince of some grand, foreign land, spirited away in a desperate final act by a usurped Royal family. I would daydream that one day all would be revealed, and I’d inherit a title (and perhaps even a horse) overnight.
His entire life seems to have run in a series of unbelievable events. As a child he was forced to smoke cigarettes for the amusement of grown-ups, and as a grown-up himself dressed up as Superman and climbed up onto the roof of his house to entertain the neighbourhood children. The stories of my Grandfather’s efforts to woo my Grandmother make The Notebook pale in comparison (sorry, Ryan, but he built her TWO homes). I blame their story for the fact that to this day I remain decidedly single.
He is a master craftsman, self-taught, of course. There are four Grandfather clocks currently chiming in his home (one for each of his four children), and every one of them was made by hand. His talent truly knows no bounds, and he even went as far as to paint portraits onto the clock faces; mermaids, seascapes and flowers decorate what would otherwise have been white space behind the whirling hands.
He is, without a doubt, one of the most fascinating people I know, and his story is the reason I enjoyed this particular novel so very much.
Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children unfolds as Jacob, our sixteen-year-old protagonist, embarks on a journey that will retrace the steps of his Grandfather’s fantastically peculiar life. As is typical of any good hero’s journey, Jacob is still reeling with the shock of tragic personal loss and questioning his own sense of self when he is offered a so-called “reprieve” on a remote island off the coast of Wales.
It’s here that he comes face-to-face with some of the characters that once played starring roles in the tall tales his Grandfather would regale him with when he was a young boy. He encounters an extraordinary woman (with an extraordinary gift) and befriends the orphans with oddities that she has taken under her wing. By the final chapter Jacob himself has realized what the reader has known since page one; that the life he is destined to lead shall be equally as remarkable as his Grandfather’s was before him.
The movie rights have already been sold to Twentieth Century Fox, and although I’d be first in line to see this tale played out on the big screen, the pages are rife with such vivid imagery that it needs to be enjoyed in the way that it was originally intended; as a book that will encourage and inspire readers of all ages to put their imaginations to good use.
The author, Ransom Riggs, had originally only intended to create a picture book featuring the collection of mildly macabre vintage photographs he had collected at swap meets, but was advised by an editor at Quirk Books to take inspiration from the images and create a narrative instead. Fans of the book will be forever in debt to that editor, as Riggs manages to seamlessly weave a tale of romance, intrigue and adventure. Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children is like Big Fish meets X-Men (if whimsy were to take the place of Wolverine). It’s as hopeful as it is haunting, and gives a whole new meaning to the expression “family demons”.
What truly stuck with me, however, was the poignancy of the plot that revolved around Jacob and his beloved Grandfather.
It seems as though many popular YA books feature protagonists that are either orphans or children fleeing broken homes. As a result, there is never a real sense of where they came from- the focus is entirely upon where they are headed. Clearly this formula works, but it was a welcome change to read about the family bonds than can span (and sometimes skip) whole generations.
- Published: June 7th, 2011
- Publisher: Quirk Books
- Pages: 352
- Readership: Young Adult
- Genres: Fantasy, mystery
- Rating: 5 1/2 Harry Potters out of 7.
- Buy it here! Or better yet- at your local bookshop!
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