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Monday, March 19, 2012

Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children, written by Ransom Riggs. Quirk Books, 2011. $19.99 ages 12 and up

"Even in the fading light I could tell the house was a disaster; it looked like it'd been ransacked by thieves. Bookshelves and cabinets had been emptied, the knickknacks and large-print Reader's Digests that had filled them thrown across the floor. Couch cushions and chairs were overturned. The fridge and freezer doors hung open, their contents melting into sticky puddles on the linoleum.
My heart sank. Grandpa Portman had really, finally lost his mind."

Encouraged by my daughter and the many rumblings I had heard about this 'peculiar' story, I read it while on holiday in British Columbia recently. Erin was right; I could not put it down once I started reading and now, three weeks later, I find myself clearly remembering many scenes (though not the intelligent and intriguing dialogue) from it. That was unexpected when I began.

Ransom Riggs uses old photos to give an eeriness to the telling and to the events that lead Jacob and his father on a trek to a remote Welsh island in search of further information about his recently deceased grandfather. Grandpa Portman's death is sudden and tragic. The police blame a dog pack. Jacob knows better. He saw the beast that did the killing, and knows about it through stories told by his much-loved grandfather.

When they reach their destination, Jacob is compelled to find the orphanage where his grandfather spent some of the war years under the care and tutelage of a kind and loving woman named Alma Peregrine. He finds the ruins of the house; and soon discovers so much more than that. The secrets that he unearths set him on a mission to save his loved ones. In searching for a solution, Jacob discovers that he is more than just an ordinary young man.

 It is how the story is told that makes for an extraordinary read. This accomplished writer uses
 photographs from collectors who have 'found' them while searching through boxes at flea markets, malls and yard sales. Among the many finds were pictures that helped  him imagine this remarkable book. He uses them as illustrations as the novel moves forward, and they help him create quite the adventure for Jacob and the 'peculiar' people that he meets while combing the island.  It moves quickly and is sometimes chilling.

The writing is compelling, the plot twists and turns, the photographs intrigue the imagination, and the reader will come away satisfied that there is a real chance for a sequel.  Those who loved this book
should  look forward to hearing from Jacob again. I'll be waiting right alongside you.

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