All the pictures in this book are authentic, vintage found photographs…lent from the personal archives of ten collectors, people who have spent years and countless hours hunting through giant bins of unsorted snapshots at flea markets and antiques malls and yard sales to find a transcendent few, rescuing images of historical significance and arresting beauty from obscurity – and, most likely, the dump. Their work is an unglamorous labor of love, and I think they are the unsung heroes of the photography world.

 – Ransom Riggs

So besides the fact that my daughter read this cover to cover, handed it to me and said “I don’t think you are going to get much sleep tonight,” and I didn’t, I can’t resist posting about yet another book recently read and incredibly personal to me. Like my post on The Hare With Amber Eyes last week, once again we have a story that is fueled by a box of items from the past, in this case a group of photos of “peculiar” children that Jacob grows up hearing stories about from his grandfather. As a young child he worshipped his grandfather – an orphaned war hero, the only one of his family to escape Poland before WWII –  and believed his stories to be true. Shipped to a children’s home in Wales to escape the “monsters,” where the sun shone everyday, he and his new friends had all kinds of special talents and he “proves” them to Jacob by showing him their photographs. Riggs has gathered a compelling collection of unusual vintage snapshots demonstrating these special powers and puts them to good use in his storytelling in upping the creepy atmospheric setting. This is definitely one book you can judge by its cover! And as the photographs are the lynchpin of the novel, I really recommend the hardcover book over the Kindle version.

But as age brings maturity and skepticism, Jacob ceases to believe that his grandfather’s stories are literal truths, “But these weren’t the kind of monsters that had tentacles and rotting skin, the kind a seven-year-old might be able to wrap his mind around – they were monsters with human faces, in crisp uniforms, marching in lockstep…Like the monsters, the enchanted-island story was also a truth in disguise. Compared to the horrors of mainland Europe, then children’s home that had taken in my grandfather must’ve seemed like a paradise, and so in his stories had become one: a safe haven of endless summers and guardian angels and magical children…” Without spoiling any of the surprise I think it is safe to say that the stories actually turn out to be true, but it in no way lessens Jacob’s own analogy with the horrors of WWII, and that is what makes the book eminently readable on more than one level, suitable for older kids, teens and adults.

Obviously for me, in addition to the story, the collecting of vintage photographs and other ephemera is dear to my heart and I have written about it before, particularly here. My newest fantasy is that Ransom Riggs decides to layer in the war in the Pacific to his story – after all, the Japanese were major players in the war too – and needs someone to scour the shrine sales of Tokyo for appropriate photographic material. I figure I have passed up plenty of peculiar children in my time and I’d love to give them an eternal home…

And by the way, from what I hear, we will all have a chance to see Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children soon at a theater nearby. Tim Burton has signed on to direct – an absolutely perfect choice!

Related Posts:
Windows into an Earlier World…Photos from the Past and “A Town Like Alice”

Image credits: 1. Ransom Riggs, 2-3. via Amazon, 4. me.