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Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children (Riggs)

Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children
Ransom Riggs, 2011
Quirk Publishing
352 pp.
ISBN-13: 9781594744761

Summary
A mysterious island.... An abandoned orphanage.... A strange collection of very curious photographs.

It all waits to be discovered in Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children, an unforgettable novel that mixes fiction and photography in a thrilling reading experience.

As our story opens, a horrific family tragedy sets sixteen-year-old Jacob journeying to a remote island off the coast of Wales, where he discovers the crumbling ruins of Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children. As Jacob explores its abandoned bedrooms and hallways, it becomes clear that the children were more than just peculiar. They may have been dangerous. They may have been quarantined on a deserted island for good reason. And somehow—impossible though it seems—they may still be alive.

A spine-tingling fantasy illustrated with haunting vintage photography, Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children will delight adults, teens, and anyone who relishes an adventure in the shadows. (From the publisher.)

This is the first book in the series. The second is Hollow City (2014).



Author Bio
Birth—N/A
Raised—in Florida, USA
Education—Kenyon College; University of
   Southern California
Currently—lives in Los Angeles, California


Ransom Riggs grew up in Florida but now makes his home in the land of peculiar children—Los Angeles. Along the way he earned degrees from Kenyon College and the University of Southern California’s School of Cinema-Television, got married, and made some award-winning short films. He moonlights as a blogger and travel writer, and his series of travel essays, Strange Geographies, can be found at mentalfloss.com or via ransomriggs.com. This is his first novel. (From the publisher.)

In his words
I was born on a 200-year-old farm in rural maryland, where at the tender age of five I decided that I definitely wanted to be a farmer when I grew up, because being a farmer meant driving tractors. Then, partially as a result of my new ambition, my mom moved us far away to Florida, where there were relatively few farms but lots and lots of old people and not very much for kids to do. 

In retrospect, it was precisely because there wasn’t a lot to do, and because the internet didn’t exist and cable TV was only like twelve channels back then, that I was forced to make my own fun and my own stories—and that’s what I’m still doing, only now I get paid for it.  So thanks, sleepy Florida fishing village!

I grew up writing stories and making videos in the backyard with my friends. I knew I wanted to do one or both of those things in some professional capacity when I got older, but I didn’t know how. For three summers during high school I attended the University of Virginia’s Young Writer’s Workshop, and I still consider it one of the shaping experiences of my life. I met so many great, brilliant people, and it convinced me that it was possible to make a life for myself as a writer.

I also knew I wanted to make movies. So I compromised, and went to Kenyon College first to study English,  then moved out to Los Angeles to go to film school at the University of Southern California.  Looking back, that was a lot of time and money spent on school, but I don’t regret it at all  Being part of those creative communities gave me lots of time to practice writing things and making movies before I had to go out and try to do either of those things professionally.

So now I do a lot of different things, which can make for a rambling and confused-sounding answer when I am asked, as I often am in work-obsessed Los Angeles, “So...what do you do? But I will attempt to answer this question, in list form:

• I write books  First, a non-fiction book about Sherlock Holmes. Then a novel about peculiar children (2011). Then a book of found photographs with writing on them, coming out in 2012. I'm fairly certain there are more novels on the way. I can feel them clanking around half-formed in my brain.

• I make movies. I went to film school and made a lot of shorts there, then after I graduated I got jobs making short and some book trailers, too, like this and this. I also write screenplays and make the occasional video blog.

• I word-blog for mentalfloss.com. My favorite column is a series of photo-travel-essays called Strange Geographies. (From the author's website.)



Book Reviews
Debut novelist Ransom Riggs liberally sprinkles his book with a series of vintage photos around which he has constructed his plot. Depending on your taste, you will find the photos either totally cool or kind of creepy, but either way they feed the book’s atmospherics and help to convincingly set much of it in a time loop—an odd chasm in the space-time continuum in which the day Sept. 3, 1940, plays over and over again/
Marjorie Kehe - Christian Science Monitor


"Peculiar" doesn’t even begin to cover it. Riggs’ chilling, wondrous novel is already headed to the movies.
People

Riggs deftly moves between fantasy and reality, prose and photography to create an enchanting and at times positively terrifying story.
Associated Press

Though technically a children's book, Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children is more Grimm's than Disney, and Riggs images, dropped like bread crumbs, could lead audiences of any age happily down the path of its spellbinding tale.
Florida Times-Union


Riggs's atmospheric first novel concerns 16-year-old Jacob, a tightly wound but otherwise ordinary teenager who is "unusually susceptible to nightmares, night terrors, the Creeps, the Willies, and Seeing Things That Aren't Really There." When Jacob's grandfather, Abe, a WWII veteran, is savagely murdered, Jacob has a nervous breakdown, in part because he believes that his grandfather was killed by a monster that only they could see. On his psychiatrist's advice, Jacob and his father travel from their home in Florida to Cairnholm Island off the coast of Wales, which, during the war, housed Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children. Abe, a Jewish refugee from the Nazis, lived there before enlisting, and the mysteries of his life and death lead Jacob back to that institution. Nearly 50 unsettling vintage photographs appear throughout, forming the framework of this dark but empowering tale, as Riggs creates supernatural backstories and identities for those pictured in them (a boy crawling with bees, a girl with untamed hair carrying a chicken). It's an enjoyable, eccentric read, distinguished by well-developed characters, a believable Welsh setting, and some very creepy monsters. (Ages 12 up.)
Publishers Weekly


Sixteen-year-old Jacob Portman no longer believes the stories his grandfather told him when he was a little boy. These are obviously fairy tales about children with mysterious abilities, such as a girl who could levitate and a boy with bees inside him, and not real memories from his grandfather's childhood. Grandpa's sepia-toned photographs of his strange friends also seem fake to Jacob. However, when he gets a chance to visit the island where the stories took place, he can't resist delving into his grandfather's past. Could these odd children really have existed? Verdict: An original work that defies categorization, this first novel should appeal to readers who like quirky fantasies. Suitable for both adults and a YA audience. Riggs includes many vintage photographs that add a critical touch of the peculiar to his unusual tale. —Laurel Bliss, San Diego State Univ. Lib
Library Journal


A haunting and out-of-the-ordinary read, debut author Ransom Rigg’s first-person narration is convincing and absorbing, and every detail he draws our eye to is deftly woven into an unforgettable whole. Interspersed with photos throughout, Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children is a truly atmospheric novel with plot twists, turns, and surprises that will delight readers of any age
Amazon Editors



Discussion Questions
Use our LitLovers Book Club Resources; they can help with discussions for any book:

How to Discuss a Book (helpful discussion tips)
Generic Discussion Questions—Fiction and Nonfiction
Read-Think-Talk (a guided reading chart)

Also consider these LitLovers talking points to help get a discussion started for Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children:

1. What effect did the photographs have on how you experienced this novel? In fact, what was your reading experience of Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children? How did it make you feel? Were you disturbed...or fascinated...or something else?  Did the book hold your interest?

2. What's wrong with Jacob Portman? What's his problem?

3. What about Abe Portman, what kind of character is he? What kind of a world does he create in his stories for young Jacob? Why do the stories intrigue Jacob so much?

4. As he moves into adolescence, why does Jacob begin to doubt the veracity of his grandfather's stories? In what way does he think they may be connected to Abe's struggle under the Nazis?

5. What makes Jacob think his grandfather's death is more sinister than what the official version claims.

6. Talk about the house in Wales. When Jacob first lays eyes on it, he observes that it "was no refuge from monsters, but a monster itself." Would you say the house serves as a setting to the story...or is its role something else—a character, perhaps?

7. What are the atmospherics used to build suspense in the novel. Find some examples of how the author uses language to instill unease, fear, and tension.

8. Are you able to make sense of the "after," the time loop? Can you explain it? Do you enjoy the way Riggs plays with time in his novel?

9. Were you surprised by the direction that the story took? Were you expecting it to go elsewhere? Were you able to suspend disbelief enough to enjoy the story's turn of events?

10. Talk, of course, about the peculiar children. Which of their oddities and personalities do you find most intriguing?

11. Some readers have complained about the inconsistency of the narrative voice, that it was perhaps too sophisticated for a young boy, even an adolescent? Do you agree, or disagree? Does the narrative voice change during the course of the novel?

12. In what way can this book be seen as a classic quest story—a young hero who undertakes a difficult journey and is transformed in the process? Do you see parallels with other fantasy works involving young people?

13. Does the end satisfy? Are loose ends tied up....or left hanging? This is the first book of a planned series. Will you read future installments? Where do you think Riggs will take his readers next?

(Questions by LitLovers. Please feel free to use them, online or off, with attribution. Thanks.)

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