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Miss Peregrine defeats allegorical monsters

Title: MissMiss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children

Author: Ransom Riggs

Length: 352 pages

16 year-old Jacob is loafing his way through high school and dreading the future laid out before him  by his family. Jacob has spent years listening to his grandfather’s stories from his childhood about his life as a WWII refugee living with other “peculiar” children hiding from “monsters”. Jacob’s grandfather even has pictures of levitating girls and bee-covered boys but Jacob assumes they are little better than cheap forgeries. Jacob is annoyed when his grandfather calls desperate for help and babbling about the “monsters”.  Arriving at a ransacked house with no sign of his grandfather, Jacob begins to worry in earnest. Jacob’s world is jarred when he finds his grandfather and watches him die moments later while a terrifying face looks on .  Jacob finds a strange letter in his grandfather’s things that propels him to a small Welsh island. He discovers that the stories his grandfather told him are not only true but the children who should have died years before are still alive and well. Jacob must unravel this mystery  to save himself, the children, and find his place in this world of monsters.

BRIDGE: This book could be used as a bridge to two main elements in a literacy course: to relate to World War II/Holocaust literature or to teach analyzing and writing allegory and symbolism. Because the story contains a character who lived through World War II and is said to have escaped the horrible fate of many of the Jews by becoming a refugee at Miss Peregrine’s, this would be an easy book to include in literature circles with other WWII/Holocaust related titles. It might also be interesting as a jumping-off point for research on these “children’s homes” during WWII. These children’s homes are an oft-mentioned but rarely detailed part of WWII history. THE MORE INTERESTING BRIDGE would be to use this novel to bridge to allegorical novels and novels that contain symbolism. In the first few pages, I was almost disappointed at what I thought were thinly veiled references to “monsters” (The Nazis) and “peculiar children” (the youngest Holocaust victims). In fact, the grandfather is explaining his survival story to a very young Jacob and one could understand why this type of simplistic symbolism would be used in the course of the narrative. But as the story progresses, readers will realize that there are layers to this symbolism; while on the surface it appears to be as black-and-white as is originally presented to young Jacob, as the story unfolds, the symbolism becomes more complex and Miss Peregrine’s world is a safe haven on multiple levels. The really cool thing is that STUDENTS CAN DEFINE MULTIPLE LEVELS OF SYMBOLISM AND ALLEGORY FOR THEMSELVES. I was so excited to find a book that I feel would be a good pairing with Animal Farm  or The Lord of the Flies. Both of these books deal heavily with allegory and symbolism and, unfortunately, are two of the most unapproachable classics regularly taught in high schools. By using Miss Peregrine’s to introduce the concepts of symbolism and allegory, one could provide the basis needed to effectively tackle these two more traditional novel.

READERS: Readers who enjoy the weird and mysterious will love this book. Riggs has created an odd world that simultaneously unnerves and attracts. Fans of magical realism will enjoy this book and will like the historical spin the author has used. And with the included photographs, photography fans will enjoy the inclusion of such rare photos.

OTHER TITLES: Readers who enjoy this book will also enjoy Going Bovine by Libba Bray, Revolution by Jennifer Donnelly or The Thief Lord by Corenelia Funke.

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