Posted: Monday, October 28th, 2013
Education.com’s introduction to Ransom Riggs was kind of an accident. During our last year of Summer Reading roundups, we found ourselves with a complete list for high school…until we noticed that one of our picks wasn’t going to be released until November. With only about a week to go before we the list went live, we summarily dispatched an editor (i.e., me) to the nearest Barnes and Noble, armed with Amazon’s top-ten for teens that year. The book I came back with? Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children.
At Education.com, we strive to make our content friendly and inviting for all kinds of kids, so we try to stick to happy stuff. However, there’s a small contingent of kids out there who actually like to be scared, and go largely underserved every month of the year that isn’t October. I was definitely one of those kids – I always loved the thrill and suspense of ghost stories; of creeping mysteries and tales of the supernatural. Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children, or Miss P as it’s often abbreviated, helped me reconnect with the kid in me that loved listening to scary stories under a blanket at sleepovers; that slightly woozy sensation of suspense that I still chase to this day. Honestly, I often wonder if Riggs even wrote Miss P with kids in mind: I likely would have never known it was intended for tweens if I hadn’t first seen that eerie cover in the children’s section of my local used bookstore. Still, the fact that it is strictly known as a children’s book is what made Miss P that much more refreshing: It’s scary, but not insulting. It doesn’t assault kids with horrific imagery, but it doesn’t attempt to shield them from scenarios that others might automatically proclaim “too scary” for kids’ delicate sensibilities.
At its heart, Miss P is nothing but a good old-fashioned mystery — a classic, understated ghost story that’s fraught with tension, but won’t keep your kid up for weeks with nightmares. The hero of the story, Jacob, is a bored teenage kid, whose only true friends are his buddy Ricky and his grandfather. For as long as he can remember, his grandfather, a Holocaust survivor, has told stories of growing up in a magical orphanage to anyone who will listen, but those that do usually assume they’re just his way of coping with his traumatic past. When his grandfather dies suddenly – and suspiciously – Jacob heads to Wales to find the orphanage, and to find out exactly how true his grandfather’s stories were. In addition to this, the pages are peppered with really, really creepy old photographs, informed by the author’s love of antique snapshots.
Intriguing, right? Let me tell you: I devoured the thing. I read it at work. I read it at home. I read it in public and didn’t even care that I was a grown woman completely wrapped up in a book aimed at fourteen-year-olds. I spent most of my work day looking forward to my train ride home, because it meant I would get to pick Miss P back up. And I wasn’t the only one: The book was such a smash that there’s a sequel coming next year, and there’s a film in the works as we speak. While I’m a little uneasy about the film version, I cannot wait to proudly read the next Miss P book on a train car full of grown-ups who may or may not think I’m weird.
So hats off to you, Ransom Riggs, and thanks for not shying away from scary. Us monster-obsessed kids deserve something better than Twilight.