“Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children” by Ransom Riggs (2011)
By now, if you are a regular reader of my reviews, you would know that there is almost always a story about the book, not just a story within the book. This book, “Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children”, is no exception. I had never heard of it. Linda came to work one day and said, “I want “Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children”. We should buy “Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children”. Let’s get a class set.” She had heard about it in a workshop at a professional development day. We bought the books, and then, since I’m a curious kind of a girl, I brought a copy home to read. I know Clare took one home too.
I can’t wait to hear if anyone at Picton, Linda included, ever teaches this book. Personally, I think it would be impossible to teach. Which is incredibly frustrating, because I think it’s possible that it’s actually a reasonably alright sort of book, but I spent the whole time I was reading it thinking, how would you teach this? Who would you teach this to? What kind of concept would you try to explore? How would you draw students in to this world? And then I thought, the only students who would really appreciate this book are students who consider themselves ‘different’, or unique in some way. The teenagers I encounter on a regular basis are doing everything in their power to appear and feel normal. There’s no way this book would work for them. I ended up deciding it is a grown up children’s book. It’s a New York Times Best Seller. Grown ups buy the books that are New York Times Best Sellers, not children. Whoever it was that enthused so effectively about the book that Linda was convinced to buy a class set without reading it, I would suggest, has not actually tried to convince any average teenager to read it.
“Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children” is a book about Jacob. He is a loner. He hates his life, dislikes his parents, has no friends, can’t stand school and can’t stand his part time job. His only joy is the close relationship he has with his grandfather. Then his grandfather is murdered, by a monster with snakes for tongues. Jacob tries to explain this to the police and his parents. They send him to a psychiatrist. He tells the psychiatrist about the monster but the psychiatrist doesn’t believe him. He does, however, think that Jacob would benefit from a holiday visiting the island his Grandfather lived on as a child, as this will help Jacob to see that his grandfather was a normal man with a normal, monster-free past. Yes, the first 5 chapters were that painful. Yes, the story does improve once Jacob and his pretty useless dad are on the island. And, yes, it really is that predictable… Jacob finds much more than monsters when he gets there.
The alleged cleverness of this book is the incorporation of photographs throughout the book. I won’t bore you with the details, but the “authentic, vintage, found photographs” (I kid you not) get more and more predictable and less and less necessary as the book drags on. In fact, by the time I got to the end of the book I got the giggles at how insulting the explicit explanatory link between the prose and the images became.
This is a ‘look at me’ book. The author thinks he’s very clever – look at me, look at me, I wrote a novel and used photographs in it, aren’t I clever. The readers who want to be ‘seen’ to be reading the book think they’re very clever – look at me, look at me, I’m reading this ‘wondrously strange first novel’.
Well, as far as I’m concerned, it tries too hard and it fails to engage. What a thrill it will be to see if anyone else at Picton bothers to read it and, even better, disagrees with my assessment. Clare? Clare? Are you out there?