Miss Peregrine’s Home For Peculiar Children – Ransom Briggs And Cassandra Jean

I’m reviewing a graphic adaption of a children’s novel. That novel is called Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children, as is the graphic adaption. The former must have been pretty good to warrant the existence of the latter.

Our protagonist is an American kid called Jacob, who is fond of his grandfather’s fantastical tales of his childhood in a surreal Welsh orphanage. After the grandfather is killed by a monster, it turns out that his tales are true. Jacob spends a good deal of time hanging out in a time-travelling orphanage where he is constantly hit on by his grandfather’s ex-girlfriend. I find that life is often tricky like that. Anyway, the baddies attack the orphanage and kidnap the orphanage’s headmistress. So the Jacob and the kids have to go and rescue her. Bloody typical, I say! And then the book ends.

The graphic side of this book was good. The pictures looked right, and the panels were organised in an intuitive way that made them easy to read. The most interesting technique was the use, and non-use, of colour. Generally speaking, when things get more fantastic they also get more colourful. I like that, and I wouldn’t mind seeing what Cassandra Jean gets up to when she isn’t adapting other people’s work.

I found the plot somewhat cliche. Clandestine supernatural societies existing within the real world… hardly original stuff! We’ve got a secret institution filled with magical kids, like in X-men or Harry Potter. (I find the hidden magical communities particularly irritating, especially if they hold cancer cures or abilities that could be used to solve real problems. It’s the self-serving rationales for seclusion I find irritating, the automatic assumption that the normal world’s reaction to wizards or vampires is lynching or exploitation.) The main character needs to save people, and presumably the world! Magical powers include levitation, time-travelling, and the admittedly inventing bee-wrangling. The problem with fantasy is that authors are often content with retreading the wonders invented by others, when they really should be inventing their own.

The character’s background was interesting. His grandfather claimed to have fled monsters in Poland before finding sanctuary in the magical orphanage, which his father interpreting the monsters to be Nazis and everything else as exaggeration. Whenever the protagonist journeys to the magical orphanage, he must enter a timeloop during the war. After the headmistress is kidnapped, he must lead the children out into a world where encounters with Nazis are inevitable. I can only hope that in the sequel Briggs has his youthful characters face real Nazi murderers, instead of tentacled bogeymen. The former are so much more terrifying, because their atrocities cannot be excused by an essentially inhuman nature.

I didn’t particularly like this book, although I admit the use of old photographs was interesting and the temporal setting has potential. Perhaps if I was younger, and had read less books in a similar vein, I would be more impressed. At any rate, I do not consider this essential reading.

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