Book: Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children
Author: Ransom Riggs
Age Range: 12 and up
Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs is another book that I knew had been well-reviewed by people, but that just didn't jump out as one that I wanted to read. Based on the title and the cover, I expected some sort of old-fashioned, Gothic orphanage story. Which it is, kind of. But it turns out that Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children is more than that. For starters, the book begins in modern-day Florida. Sixteen-year-old Jacob is an ordinary if not very popular kid, right up until his beloved grandfather is killed in horrific fashion. It's only when Jacob makes a pilgrimage to the small island off the coast of Wales where his grandfather lived as a child that things become a bit Gothic. But there's still a pleasing mix of modern-day, wisecracking sensibility with supernatural, hard-to-explain events. I quite enjoyed Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children, and hope to see sequels.
I especially liked Jacob's self-deprecating, humorous voice. Like this:
"I think they worried that my grandfather would infect me with some incurable dreaminess from which I'd never recover--that these fantasies were somehow inoculating me against more practical ambitions--so one day my mother sat me down and explained that I couldn't become an explorer because everything in the world had already been discovered. I'd been born in the wrong century, and I felt cheated." (Page 9)
"He was, I suppose, my best friend, which is a less pathetic way of saying he was my old friend." (Page 27)
"It seemed like my parents were always trying to get me to care about money, but I didn't, really. Then again, it's easy to say you don't care about money when you have plenty of it." (Page 54)
"I did love her, of course, but mostly just because loving your mom is mandatory, not because she was someone I think I'd like very much if I met her walking down the street. Which she wouldn't be, anyway; walking is for poor people." (Page 63)
OK, I think that's enough to give you a clear picture of Jacob, and of Riggs' tone (entertaining without needing to resort to over-the-top gimmicks). Though I could certainly go on. This is the kind of book that inspires lots of highlighting.
The plotting in Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children will keep kids turning the pages. Riggs sprinkles in enough clues to enable the reader to figure things out just a little bit ahead of Jacob figuring them out (which is probably desirable for middle school-age readers, giving them the chance to feel smarter than the narrator). But I think that the author's strength lies more in quirky characterization, fully rendered settings, and pithy observations. There are also some nods toward early teen hormones and dating, though not so much of that that I think a strong elementary school reader couldn't handle the book. For me, this aspect of the book wasn't necessary, but I don't think it hurts anything (except for possibly muddling the age classification for the book).
I think that middle school age readers who enjoy fantasy that is set against the real world (vs. high fantasy) will appreciate Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children. It's well-written, with engaging characters and a memorable premise. I'll be interested to see where Riggs takes Jacob next. Recommended!
Publisher: Quirk Books (@QuirkBooks)
Publication Date: June 7, 2011
Source of Book: Bought it on Kindle
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