Once Upon a Time there was a magical island with a strange mysterious portal to the past ...
Miss Peregrine's Home For Peculiar Children got a lot of press back when it was first published in 2011. A new spine-tingling young adult read, it relies on an old equation - misunderstood young man with unusual ability is drawn to an isolated haven for children with equally unusual abilities that is looked over by a matronly and well-meaning mother figure. Yes, the Harry Potter syndrome strikes again. Once again, age-old themes work with a new author's imagination to give us a whiz-bang adventure fantasy that promises to be ripe for subsequent novels.
In the case of Miss Peregrine's ..., Ransom Riggs gives us a teen-age protagonist, Jacob Portman. Jacob has grown up listening to his grandfather Abe's cryptic stories about an orphanage he spent the war years at during the 40's. His grandfather's photos and stories form a patchwork of intriguing images in young Jacob's imagination and when Abe dies mysteriously and Jacob sees a strange monster fleeing the scene of Abe's death, the story takes a decidedly ominous twist.
Jacob suffers horrible dreams, a psychotic breakdown that leads him to a therapist who advocates for him when he feels he must go to the island where his grandfather passed the war years to explore that past and act on a mysterious message that Abe whispered to Jacob as he passed away. It is on the remote Welsh island that Jacob discovers a wrinkle in time that allows him to join his grandfather's friends. It is there that he realizes his own peculiar talent. Forming an alliance that promises to carry him and his friends to stranger shores and through deeper danger, Jacob takes up a challenge that forces him to make a decision. Will he lead a life of fear, hiding from an evil force he knows exists or will he leave his safe and secure family, take control of this newfound talent, and fight his deepest horrors to make the world safe from a cataclysmic evil that threatens?
This is the stuff of myth and fairy tale, fantasy and adventure - Riggs uses archetypical components in his novel - he merges the dead with the undead and the living, has a gatekeeper between this world and the world of the past, gives us a positively mythic monster to squirm over, provides us with a set of characters with intriguing superhuman abilities (controlling fire, superhuman strength, invisibility, raising the dead, seeing what others cannot). On top of it all, Riggs introduces vintage photos of his characters that add a graphic element to the story that is ingenious and at times, downright creepy. It works beautifully to help characterize his story's children as well as set a definite mood of suspended belief and otherworldliness (is that even a word?). Magic, pure magic.
Word is that the film rights have already been bought up on this novel. Tim Burton is working on the film production ... totally appropriate. Riggs is in the process of publishing the next in the series, as it ends with a real cliffhanger. The story continues ... and we are left with this tidbit to think on ... who will play who ? Can a film be done that does justice to the story and the world created between those book covers? Stay tuned.
This reaction to Miss Peregrine's ... is being shared with those folks participating in the annual Once Upon a Time book event ... see other book reactions, and read all about Once Upon a Time by hitting the links ...