Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children

Just the title of this book, "MIss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children" was enough to capture my imagination. I decided to buy it after looking at it in the store.

Most books use bespoke illustrations to fit with the story. In this book, the author unearths vintage photographs that become an integral part of the story. If you've ever checked out my Big Happy Funhouse link, you'll know that one of the best aspects of that blog is mousing over the images and reading the comments, and seeing what the blogger and his commentors think is happening in the photo.

Ransom Riggs, in his debut novel, wove an entire story around the photographs he found in people's private collections of vintage photography. The tale concerns Jacob, who recently witnessed the violent death of his grandfather. His grandfather had a small collection of strange photos and used to tell even stranger tales about them. When he was growing up, he lived on an island off the Welsh coast, with other children who could do strange and wonderful things.

Jacob's grandfather's death triggers a near-nervous breakdown on Jacob's part, and for his own healing, his father accompanies him to this island to sort out the mystery for himself. The children, of course, were real, and there is an interally-logical explanation for everything.

But the real joy of the book is seeing the story interact with the photographs. Sometimes it falls a bit flat: a two-part series of children in yarn suits with yarn balaclavas is never explained at all; one gets the sense the images were simply too good not to include. But others are haunting and clever: his father, a dejected Halloween bunny, sitting alone on the curb; a photo of a man holding a toddler labeled "this is why"; a man in a suit loading a shotgun into the back of a 1960s-era car. "Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children" is worth checking out, simply because it's so very different.

Can anyone reading this think of a book where the images played such an integral role in the story -- a book that would make no sense without the images (excluding picture books for children?)