What an odd, fun, creepy little romp this was! I had been fascinated by the idea of this book months before it came out. The story is this: our first-person narrator, Jacob, has always been close to his grandfather. Grandpa Portman has told him stories all his life of the peculiar, magical children he grew up with, in a home for orphaned refugees during World War II. He even has pictures: a levitating girl (on the cover); an invisible boy; a skinny boy lifting a giant boulder. As Jacob grows up a bit, he begins to understand that perhaps Grandpa’s stories were just that, stories; but when Grandpa dies in a mysteriously disturbing fashion, in Jacob’s arms, and with the strangest of last words, he begins to wonder again. Under the care of a psychiatrist, Jacob travels with his father back to the tiny Welsh island where Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children was located. The story he begins to unravel… well. I don’t want to ruin anything for you.
This is really a YA (young adult) book, for two reasons: 1, the reading level, and 2, the young adult protagonist. Jacob is 16 or 17 years old. I found it very enjoyable, though, and I don’t read YA very regularly. It was a quick read, partly because of the rather basic reading level. But here’s the unique bit: there are quite a few pictures mixed in with the text. Grandpa Portman had a collection of pictures; Jacob has a few of his own; he discovers a cache of pictures in his explorations of Cairnholm Island. And every one of the pictures mentioned in the story is included, so we get to do our own examining of them alongside Jacob. This was very cool, because the oddness (or perhaps, the peculiarity) of these pictures is a large part of the point of this book. And here’s the kicker: while this is a work of fiction, and the impossibility of the photos is obvious, I found an interesting detail at the back of the book. The author writes, “All the pictures in this book are authentic, vintage found photographs, and with the exception of a few that have undergone minimal postprocessing, they are unaltered.” I don’t know what “minimal postprocessing” might entail, but it made me go back and reexamine the pictures all over again, knowing that they each have a real life mysterious story behind them. I love it: an additional facet to this curious tale.
This is a paranormal story, even one of time travel. I don’t necessarily spend a lot of time in these areas, but I found Jacob to be a likeable (if doofy – is this a regular facet of YA, too?) protagonist, and his Grandpa was a real hero. The peculiar children were extremely likeable and fascinating. I had a lot of fun with this diversion from my more normal reading.