Saturday, October 22, 2016

Peculiar Children And Other Creatures

Ransom Riggs' "Miss Peregrine's Home For Peculiar Children" was already a literary sensation when I bought it for my husband at the Denver airport in 2013. Avid reader with enormously long reading list, he put this book on a bookshelf and forgot about it. However, once he heard that Tim Burton made a movie, he quickly dug it out and started reading like mad. "Peculiar Children" became his new favorite book and, of course, we went to see the movie.

If you have read the book, you might be disappointed with the movie. Filming a book is always a risky business since readers with imagination create their own versions in their mind's eye and are not always willing to accept other versions of their private vision. There are, naturally, many pitfalls specific to the industry: the talent of the scriptwriter; the talent and experience of the movie director and his personal vision of the book; money; and the technology used to enhance a movie's commercial success. Tim Burton had enough material in the book to work with and could have made a completely different movie, but didn't.

I do not want to reveal too much about the movie or the book. The book was originally written for young adults, and like Harry Potter or Lemony Snicket, became a favorite book of many not-so-young adults who love to take  a break from their daily routine and take a dive into the magic and fantasy of such books. If you like the genre you will love this well written, magical book.

When I first started reading the book, I had to recall my Austrian colleague's story of her Jewish mother. Just like the main protagonist's Jewish grandfather Abe, she was able to escape Nazi occupied Europe. After Kristalnacht (The Night of Broken Glass) in November 1938, many Jewish families had no doubt that they were in danger. Hundreds of Jewish children were sent away to England to protect them from harm. My colleague's mother was one such child. When the war ended, she came back to Austria only to learn that her entire family was exterminated by the Nazis. The young woman must have been devastated, but she decided to stay in Austria and start her own family. She married an Austrian Catholic, had two children and a long history of emotional struggle. The monsters she fled from in late 1930s seemed to have moved inwards and she has never recovered from her survivor's guilt.

The book only marginally touches on the subject, but one can only imagine the monsters. That a young Polish Jew ended up in a Welsh orphanage for peculiar children is only a natural consequence. In their own way all escaping Jewish kids were peculiar whether they had bees inside their bellies or not.

By Dominique Allmon

Dominique Allmon©2016


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