Prather’s Pick: A story told from photos
This week’s book is the first in a series of three. “Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children” was written by Ransom Riggs in 2011. The novel was written for the young adult reader; however, adults will also find it fascinating. The book will be made into a movie.
The book is unusual because it is a “found” novel; that is, the fictitious story was found in some old photographs. Some of them were rather strange, even bizarre. It happened like this.
At age 13, Ransom Riggs used to accompany his family members to junk stores, garage sales, and flea markets. He became fascinated with the old photographs that he found there. He was especially drawn to the photos with writing on them. Eventually he became a collector of old photographs. One thing led to another, and he wrote “Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children.”
The novel was written using some photographs for inspiration (and illustrations). The photos in the book came from the personal archives of ten collectors, plus the author. Most were unaltered, although some underwent “minimal postprocessing.”
The leading character of the novel is Jacob, grandson of Abraham Portman. When Jacob was growing up, Grandpa Portman told him stories about his past — of being raised in an orphanage, serving in wars and a lot more.
Grandpa grew up in an orphanage on an island off the coast of Wales. He told of an “enchanted place designed to keep kids safe from monsters.” He and other children lived in a big old house that was protected by “a wise old bird,” Miss Peregrine.
One day Grandpa brought out an old cigar box with some yellowed photos of children he knew at the orphanage. There was a photo of a person without a head. Grandpa said he had a head, but it was invisible. There was one of a little girl whose feet weren’t touching the ground. Grandpa said she was levitating, and sometimes they had to get a rope and pull her down. (This photo is the cover of the book.)
The strangest of Grandpa’s photos was of the back of somebody’s head with a face painted on it.
When Jacob was 15, Grandpa died. It was a questionable death; did someone kill him? Just before he died, Grandpa told Jacob to go to the island where he grew up and to find the bird and the loop. Grandpa was afraid for Jacob.
That same night Jacob saw a face in the dark forest. His mouth was hinged, and five tentacles hung from it. Jacob had nightmares. He wouldn’t leave the house. His parents hired Dr. Golan to help him.
Finally, Jacob started to function again. He decided to go to the island just as Grandpa wanted him to. Dr. Golan agreed that he should go. So in June, Jacob and his father left for the island off Wales. Jacob’s father, who was an expert on birds, would study the island’s bird population.
During an incredible adventure, Jacob found the orphanage. He met interesting characters, including Emma Bloom.
This fantasy leaves the reader wondering. Were the characters in Grandpa Portman’s photographs real? Who are the monsters that Grandpa feared? There are lots of twists and turns and a not-to-be-expected ending.
Downtown Books in Craig will have “Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children” and the other two books in the series available for purchase. They can also be found at the Craig branch of the Moffat County Libraries. “Talking Pictures,” the nonfiction book by Ransom Riggs, is also available at the library.
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