The main character of Miss Peregrine’s Home For Peculiar Children is a sixteen year old boy called Jacob Portman, who lives in America. Through all of his childhood he has been told what he thought were just made up stories by his grandfather, about a home he once lived in on a distant Welsh island. He tells of strange children who lived there, in an orphanage, all with peculiar talents, and shows him photographs, which Jacob dismisses as fakes. The children were there to be kept safe, he said, but he wouldn’t tell Jacob from what. Grandpa Portman had always been a bit strange, but Jacob relied on him, with his parents thinking they knew what was best for him when really they had no idea. When Jacob goes to his house after work, he finds his grandfather dying on the floor. All he can get out of him are a few words which he has to puzzle together to find out about his grandfather’s death. He only knows one thing- whatever the peculiar children were hiding from was what killed his grandfather. He manages to persuade his father and the psychiatrist who his parents took him to after his grandfather’s death to let him take a holiday to the island.
Strange things start going on as soon as they arrive. Emma, a girl who can control fire and hold it in her bare hands, takes him back through a time loop nearby the abandoned orphanage which he has discovered to the orphanage which his grandfather lived in. This orphanage is stuck in one day in the 1940s. It is occupied by all the children from the stories and the photos, and the kind but strict headmistress, Miss Peregrine. They are all immortal, stuck in that one day. They all think he is his grandfather, but then he tells them of what happened to his grandfather and why he is there.
He finds out what they’re hiding from and why, and pieces together evidence from all around the island. It then becomes clear to them- they are under attack. At not just from the bombs from the war- from something far, far more dangerous. Jacob realises that he is the key for keeping them alive, and he knows that he has to help. But will he choose the orphanage, with his friends, Emma, the beautiful grounds and laughing children but constant danger and no going back to his family- ever? Or will he choose his drunk father, the mother who thinks he’s mad, the psychiatrist he thought he could trust, the empty space where his grandfather was, and being unprotected forever?
In this book the author, Ransom Riggs, uses black and white photographs and his own text to create a story. The author had been collecting old photographs already but needed more for his book. The photographs haven’t been taken specifically for the book- he found them by being introduced to other photograph collectors by the man he usually went to when looking for photographs- someone named Leonard Lightfoot.
Miss Peregrine’s Home For Peculiar Children by Ransom Briggs is a haunting book which I’m never going to forget. I don’t normally like fantasy stories but this on was told so realistically that it made me uneasy. I like scary things, or things which don’t seem quite right, and as soon as I opened the book on my birthday I knew I was going to love it. I didn’t realise that it was going to give me bad dreams for months to come, but I guess that was inevitable.
To start with, there was the front cover. It was brown and looked old, and not in the Harry Potter movie way when you know that it’s either CGI or that someone’s worked on it for days. The cover design was brilliant, perfect for the book, and the title is also amazing. I loved the black, brown and white colour scheme, which makes it look like something that you just picked up in an orphanage on a remote Welsh island.
I thought that the characters were all well built up over the story. I liked how every character has at least a small bit about them, so you understand everyone’s side of the story. The story itself was disturbing, scary, original, perfectly described- the author did everything right. I can’t find a single fault with it. I love the descriptions of the island and how different it looks back in time and forward again. The description of the abandoned building sent shivers up my spine… it was completely incredible. It’s easy to describe a spooky place but not easy to do it well, but in this book it is.
I could take every single line from the book and analyse it but I would come up with the same thing in the end- this book is brilliant!!!
I am very excited that there is a sequel but slightly unsure about whether I’m going to enjoy it as much as the first or find it as believable. For example, it’s very unlikely that there’s more than one photo of the levitating girl or any of the other characters so either he would have to create a lot of new characters which would make it seem very unlikely, or not use photos which would be really sad, as they make the book what it is. I’m very interested to see how he does it. It’s also been announced that Jane Goldman is going to make the story into a screenplay for a film, which Tim Burton is going to direct. I will also see this when or if it comes out and review it and see whether or not it lives up to the book.
Estimated reading age: Eleven and up
Price on Amazon: Paperback £5.69, Kindle edition £5.41. I would advise that you get the hardback because it improves the experience. Hardback £7.79.
Author: Ransom Riggs
Main characters: Jacob, Emma, Jacob’s father, Miss Peregrine
Rating: ★★★★★ Perfect, no faults at all
I found My Sister’s Keeper in the DVD rental place near my house, going for 50p because no one was renting it. I bought it and watched it with my friend, and we both found it really sad… in fact we were crying by the end, but we both also agreed that it was amazing!
Anna Fitzgerald (Abigail Breslin) believes that she was put on the earth to save her sister. Kate (Sofia Vassilieva) her older sister, suffers from acute promyelocytic leukemia. She was diagnosed when she was very young, and her parents were told by the doctors that the only way they could save their beloved daughter is genetically conceive another daughter who will be able to be ‘spare parts’ to Kate. Anna had to have operations from when she was a baby, and the newest one means that she can’t play sport, be a cheerleader or have children- she has to donate a kidney to Kate because her own have failed.
The film is told from different points of view, using their interior monologue to tell the story. Anna’s is the most frequently used, but the switch is good because you can see that there’s more than one thing going on in the family, not just Kate’s illness. Anna’s parents push her to her limits. Anna knows that they love Kate more, but there’s something she’s not telling them. When she tries to refuse to donate her kidney to Kate, her parents are horrible to her. They don’t know that there’s a reason behind her doing so which is not for her benefit, which is for Kate’s. Anna tells her parents that she doesn’t want to do it because she deserves the rights to her own body and employs a lawyer to sue them for medical emancipation. The lawyer is very famous and Anna can’t pay him nearly enough to make it worthwhile for him, but he takes the case on for personal reasons, which you find out near the end.
Anna’s mother Sara (Cameron Diaz) is barely a person without her obsessive pushing to help her daughter Kate. She has given up work as a lawyer- her whole life revolves around Kate, and she doesn’t have room in her schedule for Anna or Jesse, Anna and Kate’s dyslexic brother, who needs more help than Kate, who has every relative and doctor fighting to save her. The film is full of flashbacks, which confused me quite a lot because there isn’t any kind of dreaminess or thoughtfulness to them so you can’t really tell what is a flashback and what isn’t. One of the flashbacks shows Kate in a relationship with Taylor Ambrose (Thomas Dekker), another cancer victim. He helps her through radiotherapy and you see how he makes her happy and makes her forget her illness.
You don’t see how on earth Kate can get through her illness. The court case reveals many things about the family and the characters and about Kate. This isn’t a spoiler because you can tell right from the beginning of the film, but right at the very end Kate dies. It’s incredibly moving and well-done, because there isn’t a huge funeral or dramatic lead up to it- she just dies, like people actually die. They have no serenade and usually no one around to watch their last breath. That’s what made it so sad- the fact that it was so realistic. The family’s lives continue and all of them get jobs and start moving on. You can tell that they’re never going to get over Kate’s death, but they don’t deny it and, just like she told them to, they start living their own lives, not just hers.
I really liked this film. The terminal illness theme was really sad, because by the time Kate dies you feel as though you really know her. It felt like actually watching someone die, and the good acting makes it more realistic but much, much more sad. I enjoyed seeing everyone’s point of view and looking back at Anna’s memories. I would really like to see how the book compares and whether it’s any better.
Estimated watching age: Twelve and up
Price on Amazon: £3.64 for normal DVD, £6.75 for Blu-Ray
Director: Nick Cassavetes
Names of the people who play the main characters: Abigail Breslin, Cameron Diaz, Sofia Vassilieva
I found Speak by clicking a link that was next to the Snow White and The Huntsman trailer on YouTube.
Melinda Sordino (Kristen Stewart) starts the first year of her school with no friends, being labelled as a squealer for calling 911 at the end of the previous end of term party. No one knows the real reason why, not even her parents. Melinda is quiet and seems to be living in her own head. Her parents leave her alone in the house and her mother never listens to Melinda’s opinions. They refuse to be nice to her as she suffers, believing she’s going through a teenage phase and that they’ve lost their ‘sweet, loving little girl’.
Only Melinda knows what happened to her at the party- she was raped by a boy called Andy Evans (Eric Lively), who is currently dating her old best friend Rachel, who has re-invented herself as Rachelle. All Melinda’s old friends have joined various cliques, and the new girl, Heather, who Melinda has helped at the start of term who doesn’t even notice that Melinda never speaks, joins one o the cliques and tells Melinda that while she has her ‘depression thing’ she doesn’t want to sit with her at lunch.
When Melinda’s parents see her bad report card, they think that she’s just not trying. They send her to see Mr Neck, a teacher who despises her for no good reason. He asks her to write an essay on any history topic, and she chooses the suffragettes. She presents it to him, having written it in the old school store cupboard where she spends a lot of her time, hiding from people but not wanting to go home. My Neck tells her that to get the marks for it she has to read it out in class, but Melinda does her best not to draw attention to herself and believes that she has the right not to speak if she doesn’t want to. Her lab partner Dave Petrakis (Michael Angarano) helps her to express her views in class, but she is sent to the school principal for impertinence.
Mr Freeman (Steve Zahn) is the new art teacher at the school, and gets Melinda interested in art. Her project for the year is trees, and although she starts off not being able to draw them properly, she end up a talented artist. Her parents start noticing this, and her favourite Christmas present from them is some drawing tools. Rachel, or Rochelle, is ignoring Melinda, but Melinda is scared that she’s going to suffer the same fate and although she resents her for not being there when she needed her most, Melinda tells her about what happened. At first Rachel doesn’t believe her, but then she notices that Andy is sometimes violent towards her and she starts telling other people what happened to Melinda.
Melinda is slowly becoming more confident and gaining some friends and better grades. But when Andy hears the rumours that are being spread about him, he comes after her and tries to attack her. Either Melinda could lose her confidence altogether, or she could fight back, start speaking out and start telling people what happened to her. She chooses the latter.
Although Melinda has regained some of her confidence, it is obvious that she needs time to get over what happened to her. By the end though, you know that she eventually will.
I liked this film because it shows what life in an American school might be like- very different from in an English school. The film really inspired me as well actually, because when I was little I loved art but I hadn’t been finding time to do enough of it and then I saw Speak and it made me want to start doing it again. Kristen Stewart’s acting in this film is really strong and she portrays Melinda perfectly.
This film was really moving, because it looks like Melinda’s just going to be trapped on her own for the rest of her life, but then she starts making things happen and breaking free from the cage she’s been trapped inside. The film is not very widely known- only real fans of the actors have found it. It’s not on sale in any shops or on Amazon. I also liked this about it, because it was made to put across a message, and only people who really want to hear what it has to say have ever watched it. It’s not the kind of film that everyone likes- like the Hunger Games or something. It’s more personal, and you can take what you want out of it- whether it’s a general message to keep going and speak out, or whether it’s something which actually means something to you in everyday life.
Estimated watching age: 12 and up
Price on Amazon: The only one there is is a version from the Czech Republic… there are only two copies. Because of this some one has put it up on YouTube, which is where I watched it.
Director: Jessica Sharzer
Film certificate: PG-13
Names of the people who play the main characters: Kristen Stewart, Michael Angarano, Eric Lively, Hallee Hirsh, Steve Zahn
This is for Part One of the full movie- follow the links to other parts:
Rating: ★★★★★ One of my favourite ever films. Obviously just personal view, but it is really REALLY good.
Ginger was a plump girl with pigtails and red hair, and all she remembers of her childhood is being bullied. She doesn’t remember that she might have had people on her side, and she sees, when she looks through a photo album, that she was pretty when she was little. Ginger is insecure. With parents who never really talk to her and a best ‘friend’ who is completely in control of Ginger and knows it, Ginger starts doubting her status as most popular girl in Year Eight and starts looking around her, looking at how people never talk to her because they’re intimidated by her. Her best friend Shannon Kershaw never lets her express her real views on things. On the first day of Year Eight, Ginger sees a girl called Emily Croft crying in the toilet. She goes and comforts her, despite Shannon’s reluctance, and find out that Emily’s best friend Meg has moved away. She remembers an ice skating party she had when she was little, when Emily was one of the only people who turned up. She makes friends with her, but Shannon has other things in mind.
Shannon makes Emily a ‘project’, a project which includes hair dye, make up, hair straighteners and new clothes. This was never part of Ginger’s plan. Emily is ‘in’ and in her excitement she doesn’t notice that Shannon is pushing Ginger to the side, leaving her out. Ginger realises that she was just Shannon’s toy, and Emily is a newer, more fun version of her.
Ginger also meets Sam Taylor, a misfit who doodles in Tippex on his non-school-uniform jeans, skips class, drinks blue lemonade, plays the saxophone and regularly forms one person bands with strange names. Shannon likes him at first but when she realises that he’s interested in Ginger, not her, she announces that he’s ‘weird’. They date each other secretly, because Ginger is afraid of Shannon. Sam tries to get her to stand up to Shannon.
At school, the new English teacher who Shannon has a crush on and will not stop pursuing, suggests that they form a school magazine. Shannon makes up the name, ‘S’cool’, and becomes the Editor, taking credit for everything.
Just when it seemd like nothing could get worse, Shannon suggests that she joins her 13th birthday party and the magazine opening party together and invites Mr Hunter and a group of older boys who bring alcohol. That’s when everything starts getting out of hand, and Ginger has to think seriously about whether she wants to stay with pushy, mean Shannon or be a part of the ‘freak’ crowd…
I enjoyed this book because I know that a lot of people can relate to it. It was very moving, and at times funny. All of Cathy Cassidy’s books have me hooked, reading under the table at dinner and even reading at sleepovers (gasp!) I thought Ginger’s character was built up very well over the course of the book, until by the end you felt that you were actually friends with her. She sounds twelve, even though her thoughts are written by a middle aged woman, which is always good as the book becomes a lot less believable if the ‘child’ who’s telling it thinks like an adult. It would appeal to all ages- from ten year olds to adults. The ideas are very good- there isn’t just one central problem, there are lots of different things going on which are all resolved by the end, leaving you satisfied. The ending was a big surprise to me, because with realistic books you can usually tell what’s going to happen at the end and with Gingersnaps I couldn’t. Great book!
Genre: Realistic/ dealing with issues
Estimated reading age: Ten and up
Price on Amazon: Paperback £9.99, Kindle edition £4.99
Main characters: Ginger, Shannon, Sam, Emily Croft
Rating: ★★★ A great book, dealing with issues which many people will be familiar with