Long ago I saw this book on the shelves. Something about the title struck me and it stayed in the back of my mind. Roll around to Christmas time and I notice that they have converted the original text into a graphic novel. A book I was interested in, now in picture form? Sign me up. Come Christmas morning (well not really, it was boxing day) I geek out as I find a handful of books in graphic novel form.
I will say this now, there are spoilers in the rambling below. I’ll avoid letting the ending away, but you have been warned. There is also lots of talk about the design/art side of this book. A bit of a unique addition since most of the books I have don’t lead themselves to that possibility.
I enjoyed the juxtaposition of the drawn artwork in contrast to the old black and white photos. It was nice to see the picture of the little girl that had grabbed me when I was walking around the bookstore was still present.
That day (boxing day) I read the first chapter of the book. One night this week I finished the other seven. Its odd, with pictures everyone can interpret them a little different so the ‘story’ will read differently. But seeing as how when you read, you definitely pick up different subtext based on your own experiences, it’s not so different.
Style wise it was almost nice that I had had the few week divide between the two reading sessions. The book starts when the protagonist (Jacob) is a kid. He’s listening to his grandfather tell stories of when he was a kid and lived at a group home. The styling shows that time in Jacob’s life all in color. The book then skips to Jacob’s “present day” when he is roughly a teenager. Now the world / book is in black and white.
I like about graphic novels is how the pictures exceed their frames. For instance in this one the monster’s tongue leaves the first pane to drape over the second in one spot and free fall to the third in another. It gives the lingering feeling that the character is still feeling after seeing the monster. Hence he still has nightmares.
Jacob has grown to realize the stories his grandfather Abe told him as a kid were lies. He has grown somewhat apart from his grandfather in the interim years, but as we enter the story anew he is dropping in on his grandfather. Only he isn’t there, he has left the place in shambles and Jacob follows the path to find Abe dying. With his time winding down he leaves Jacob a peculiar riddle that he is unable to make sense of. Then he sees a monster and his world is turned upside down. He is forced to see a psychologist and through a series of events goes to the town where his grandfather was a kid.
While he is there he eventually hunts down the house where Abe lived before becoming a soldier in WWII. He is looking at the wreckage that is the house when all of a sudden, as readers, we see a hint of color again. This was all after chapter one so I had even forgotten that the beginning had any color at all. A small sign that perhaps the magic that Jacob believed in as a kid actually exists. The kids, realizing it’s Jacob and not Abe, run away. Jacob does his best to follow them but loses them. However, he continues to roam. After another series of events he finds them and finds himself in front of the house his grandfather had always described. The world is now, solidly, in color.
Jacob immerses himself in the world of his grandfather and (spoiler) realizes he is peculiar too. That’s why he could see the monster in the forest the day his grandfather died. As soon as he makes that connection he is shown blue like the other characters were when he first saw them. Fun little call back by the artist. It soon transpires that the peculiars are under attack, but if you want to know from what you’ll just have to read the book (or graphic novel) yourself.
Style-wise I enjoyed this spread. The artist took liberties, allowing the characters to interact even though in the story they are all ‘performing’ separately. In the flow of the left page, each girl being about the same perspective, works with the overlapping dynamic. Emma’s arms and fire lead you to the boulder Bronwyn is holding. Then Claire’s frame ‘overlaps’ the two to make sure you go left to see her before moving along to the next page. On the right page of the spread is a different composition. I will say it again: I love the juxtaposition in this book. With the contrast of size each character is treated in an equivalent manner even though they aren’t equal perspectives. If Hugh would have truly been back to back with Fiona his bees would have lost some of their impact. Likewise if Fiona would have been enlarged to the same size it wouldn’t have had the same effect. Then we have Jacob small at the bottom, perhaps speaking to how he is feeling when thrown into the world of the peculiar. This ‘show’ the peculiars are performing to show him what they can do happens before he puts the pieces together about himself.
Then we have this panel set. The dad goes from 0-10 on the anger scale in that matter of seconds:
I think my favorite is the last panel. You can see that he is just so done. And then girl’s just chilling in the air all ‘hi’ and polite. Dad is not ready to handle your shenanigans kiddos.
That’s it. That’s my review. I liked the story and it was fun reading a picture book again. It’s been ages.
Until next time
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A graphic novel: Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children
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