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15 April 2012

'Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children' by Ransom Riggs

I became aware of my own prejudices and preconceptions

I bought this book as an antidote to my previous reading.  I paged through it at Waterstone's and the photographs gave me the creeps.  A straight forward story about monsters, I thought.  I was wrong but not the way I would normally be wrong.  It is a story about monsters but, as in any good book, the magic is in the telling.

As I read the story, it became obvious that the photographs are an integral part of the story.  These photographs are not illustrations or companions to the story that perhaps outline or frame passages.  Instead, the photographs themselves are indeed "worth a thousand words".  It is a unique story because the telling of it is provided by these photographs like a picture of your great-grandmother brings to life tales you grandmother may have told you.  The children are not only brought to life because the writer provides a good narrative, they come alive through the photographs.

In most books you get to know characters slowly, if only because physical words and the mechanics of writing limit the writer and reader in time and space.  Characters are described, they take certain actions  and eventually you decide their place in the narrative (you cannot always trust what you are told), for example, good, bad, important, annoying, funny etc...  This book begins with the mystery of these children's photographs.  They appear to be figments of someone's imagination, circus performers or the pictures are manipulated.  As we learn more about the protagonist and our protagonist learns to look at these photographs from different mind sets and maturity levels, suddenly the pictures come into focus for the reader as well.

I became aware of my own prejudices and preconceptions.  My own instincts had been wrong.  I was excited every time I could put a face to a myth.  Photography like any visual art requires the viewer to have a certain state of mind in order to see what the artist intends you to experience.  The biases I had, as I first encountered the pictures, were turned on their head.  I was humbled and happy at the same time.

ISBN: 9781594744761

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