Thursday, August 11, 2011

Who Says Picture Books are for Little Kids?!

Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children
We all love(d) picture books, right? The pictures were what lured us in and started us reading. So wouldn't it be ingenious to create an amazing story full of quirky old photographs that pulled a struggling reader in with the images and held them with the rocking story? Well, Ransom Riggs did just that with Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children.

Jacob grew up listening to his grandfather's wild stories about girls who floated, an invisible boy, a fire starter, and the orphanage they all lived in run by "a bird who smoked a pipe". When he was young, these stories were addictive, along with the photos that accompanied them. Once he got older, though, he became skeptical and eventually confronted his grandfather about their authenticity. When Jacob's grandfather is found brutally murdered, Jacob loses it. He pulls away from everyone and everything, and his parents make him see a therapist. With the therapist's encouragement, Jacob and his father finally set off to find the orphanage his grandfather escaped to as his Jewish family was being herded into concentration camps.

Once they arrive on the remote island in Wales, they realize it is a strange place- almost stuck in time. When Jacob finds the orphanage, his dreams are immediately destroyed with the rotting corpse of the building. But then he spies some kids- the same kids from his grandfather's photos. They take him back to the orphanage- or at least exactly how it was in 1940. The orphanage they live in is in a time loop created by Miss Peregrine, the head lady of the orphanage who can shift into a bird and protects the "peculiar" children. The children have been living for decades in the loop, and Jacob's arrival is very exciting. But when it becomes clear the peculiars are in trouble, Jacob is will to risk everything to protect them, especially Emma, the girl who once loved her grandfather. But how can a normal, boring human help the peculiars? Maybe he isn't so "normal"!

The best way to describe this book is "peculiar". It is comforting, yet strange and different. The photos aren't the only oddities of this story, the characters, concept, and execution are strange too, but strange in an amazing, whirlwind way. Without the photos, the story still wouldn't be your average "supernatural" or "paranormal" story we see so much of today. It is a truly novel concept and execution and I couldn't get enough of it.

The writing, story, and characters are all appropriate for a wide range of students. The photos will captivate a younger or lower-skilled student and keep them turning the pages, but the story is sophisticated enough to keep a stronger or older reader hooked as well. I can see the quirky students loving this book, but the less "peculiar" students also being sucked into the interesting story. Truly, this is one of those magical books that might end up as my "go to" independent reading story for most kids. I have a few of them, my reliable all stars that work for so many students. I predict this book will soon be added to this illustrious list! Add it to your libraries and classroom shelves... you won't be sorry!

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