Illustrated with vintage postcards that beg for a backstory, Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children (by Ransom Riggs) starts off as a typical teen novel with a self-deprecating narrator from a mildly dysfunctional family.   Jacob’s  big challenges for the summer are getting fired from his inane job at one of the family’s chain of drugstores and to keep his grandfather, who seems to be suffering from worsening dementia, in check.   Jacob had always shared a special closeness with his grandfather, but long ago stopped believing his fantastic stories about monsters and the “peculiar” children he grew up with in a Welsh orphanage.  When Jacob’s dad dispatches him to his grandfather’s house on a day when the elder is especially agitated, Jacob finds him in the woods behind his house, the victim of a brutal attack by what authorities guess was a wild animal.  The tentacle-mouthed creature Jacob glimpses leaving the scene haunts his dreams thereafter, along with his grandfather’s dying instructions, to “find the bird, in the loop, on the other side of the old man’s grave.  September third, 1940.”  So begins Jacob’s quest.  He convinces his ornithologist father to accompany him to the island where his grandfather spent his childhood as a refugee from occupied Poland.  Jacob expects to find the idyllic, rambling mansion of his grandfather’s stories, but is disappointed by a bombed out shell of a house covered in mold and neglect.  Determined to find some clue of what his grandfather meant to tell him, he stubbornly explores the house.  When he discovers that he’s being watched, he pursues the spy to a part of the island heretofore known only by “peculiars.”  The action kicks into high gear in this coming of age story that combines horror, magic, fascinating characters, and a little romance.  Read it before Tim Burton gets his hands on it.

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