The Norman Transcript

April 13, 2012

A peculiar book for a peculiar world

By KL Marc
The Norman Transcript

NORMAN — “Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children” by Ransom Riggs has topped Entertainment Weekly’s Must List and NY Times Children’s Best Seller list. This unexpected book is said to offer chills, thrills and even sleepless nights.

Why?

The plot? Probably. The writing style? Most likely. The photos? Definitely.

“Miss Peregrine” is about an ordinary young boy, Jacob, who grew up adoring his Grandpa Portman and believing his grandfather’s colorful stories of a fabled childhood in a faraway island where he lived to hide from monsters. As a kid, Jacob believed the stories of children with strange magical abilities. The photographic proof Grandpa collected in a box validated the stories.

But, when he got older, he stopped believing. That is, until a series of events has him questioning the old stories. Jacob sees a chilling double image in Grandpa’s neighbor, and when his Grandpa mysteriously dies he leaves cryptic last words and a letter from a mysterious woman named Miss Peregrine. Trying to understand the truth, Jacob sets off to a small island off of the coast of Wales where his grandfather grew up.

Tension and suspense grows the further into the mystery Jacob gets. There’s more to the island, more to Grandpa’s stories and more to the residents than Jacob first suspects.

And while the suspense is prevalent throughout the book, the focus eventually settles on the accompanying photographs — pictures interlaced throughout the book that offer creepy, vintage looks at posed children doing magical things. Or not so magical and just downright creepy.

The interesting part about the pictures is that they’re not necessary. They’re a chilling supplement. They’re good for the book and the tone, but if you took them out, nothing would be lost.

Riggs did a great job in bringing Jacob and the other characters to life. He gave distinct voices to characters to make them memorable, even when you may only meet them twice. His writing style, though sometimes a little dry with too many details, keeps the pace of the book quick and light. It’s hard to put down. You want to know what happens and you don’t want to be creeped out anymore.

But there is more to this book then photographs, frights and peculiar children. There’s a message on belief and acceptance.

“We cling to our fairy tales until the price for believing them becomes too high.”

It’s the idea that these peculiar children do exist and they have a story to tell and a life to live. But people are afraid. And wasn’t that the point of Grandpa’s stories? That hiding isn’t a life. But believing in the unbelievable is also dangerous. People will do anything to make sense of the world.

And for Jacob, a self-proclaimed ordinary boy, believing takes more effort then he thought possible.

Midway through the book, the villainy of the book gets a explanation and the suspense turns a little more into Sci-Fi/Fantasy. And the book takes a surprising, unexpected turn.

My only compliant is the abrupt end. It’s designed for a sequel but that sequel isn’t scheduled for release until Spring 2013. Maybe Riggs needs to find more photos, maybe the movie is slowing the book’s production, either way, be warned, this book has a part two not published yet.