Sixteen-year-old Jacob Portman no longer believes the stories his grandfather told him when he was a little boy. These are obviously fairy tales about children with mysterious abilities, such as a girl who could levitate and a boy with bees inside him, and not real memories from his grandfather's childhood. Grandpa's sepia-toned photographs of his strange friends also seem fake to Jacob. However, when he gets a chance to visit the island where the stories took place, he can't resist delving into his grandfather's past. Could these odd children really have existed? VERDICT An original work that defies categorization, this first novel should appeal to readers who like quirky fantasies. Suitable for both adults and a YA audience. Riggs includes many vintage photographs that add a critical touch of the peculiar to his unusual tale.--Laurel Bliss, San Diego State Univ. Lib.[Page 77]. (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
Riggs's atmospheric first novel concerns 16-year-old Jacob, a tightly wound but otherwise ordinary teenager who is "unusually susceptible to nightmares, night terrors, the Creeps, the Willies, and Seeing Things That Aren't Really There." When Jacob's grandfather, Abe, a WWII veteran, is savagely murdered, Jacob has a nervous breakdown, in part because he believes that his grandfather was killed by a monster that only they could see. On his psychiatrist's advice, Jacob and his father travel from their home in Florida to Cairnholm Island off the coast of Wales, which, during the war, housed Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children. Abe, a Jewish refugee from the Nazis, lived there before enlisting, and the mysteries of his life and death lead Jacob back to that institution. Nearly 50 unsettling vintage photographs appear throughout, forming the framework of this dark but empowering tale, as Riggs creates supernatural backstories and identities for those pictured in them (a boy crawling with bees, a girl with untamed hair carrying a chicken). It's an enjoyable, eccentric read, distinguished by well-developed characters, a believable Welsh setting, and some very creepy monsters. Ages 12-up. (June)[Page ]. Copyright 2010 PWxyz LLC
Gr 8 Up--Sixteen-year-old Jacob, traumatized by his grandfather's sudden, violent death, travels with his father to a remote island off the coast of Wales to find the orphanage where his grandfather was sent to live to escape Nazi persecution in Poland. When he arrives, he finds much more than he bargained for: the children from his grandfather's stories are still at the orphanage, living in a time loop in 1940. The monsters that killed Jacob's grandfather are hunting for "peculiar" children, those with special talents, and the group at the orphanage is in danger. Jacob must face the possibility that he, too, has certain traits that the monsters are after and that he is being stalked by adults he trusted. This complex and suspenseful story incorporates eerie photographs of children with seemingly impossible attributes and abilities, many of whom appear as characters in the story. The mysterious photographs add to the bizarre and slightly creepy tone of the book. Jacob is a strong and believable character, though only a few of the secondary characters are fully realized. The pacing of the story is good, alternating action sequences with Jacob's discoveries of his grandfather's long-hidden secrets. Readers will find this book unique and intriguing.--Misti Tidman, formerly at Boyd County Public Library, Ashland, KY[Page 132]. (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.