A teen's quest could be the start of something bigger

McClatchy NewspapersJune 15, 2011 

BOOKS BOOK-MISSPEREGRINE MCT

"Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children," by Ransom Riggs (Quirk Books/MCT) is a mixture of horror and fantasy aimed at the Young Adult market. (MCT)

HANDOUT — MCT

Got a tweener child with a taste for creepy horror and time-travel stories?

Send them "Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children."

This first novel by Ransom Riggs deals with young Jacob Portman and his quest to find out the truth behind his Grandpa's wild stories.

What he finds is the classic quest story and more. The story has elements of fantasy, adventure, adolescence and grief. (Note: The opening chapter is not for the weak-stomached, with the graphic murder of Grandpa by the evil that will haunt his grandson.)

Jacob's parents worry about his psychological state, since he discovered his Grandpa's body, and send him to a psychiatrist, Dr. Golan. It's the doctor's advice that sends Jacob on his way to Cairnholm Island in Wales to find out the truth.

Riggs has illustrated his book with authentic vintage photographs discovered by collectors and photo enthusiasts. The pictures are an integral part of the storytelling and add evocative twists to the eeriness of the home and its inhabitants.

As the story unfolds readers come to understand that the term "peculiar" has a very specific meaning.

"It wasn't so many centuries ago that parents of peculiar children simply assumed their 'real' sons and daughters had been made off with and replaced by changelings — that is, exchanged and malevolent not to mention entirely fictitious, look-a-likes — which in darker times was considered a license to abandon the poor children, if not kill them outright," Miss Peregrine tells Jacob. The children all have special gifts.

Jacob not only has to deal with the evil "hollowghasts" and "wights," he also has to cope with his modern-day family and their rampant insecurities. His father is an amateur ornithologist and failed author while his mother, and her family, own a drugstore chain. Jacob has a teenager's view of his parents — especially his father who has his own problems — which makes his decision at the end solidly planted in teen fiction tradition.

Finally, with all the loose ends tied up, another quest is launched. "Miss Peregrine's" is an entertaining read with great potential for more stories to come.

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"Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children" by Ransom Riggs; Quirk Books, Philadelphia (352 pages, $17.99)

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