Book Review: Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children

Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children, by Ransom Riggs

Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children

Growing up, Jacob Portman thought his Grandpa Portman was the most fascinating person he knew. He had fought in wars, crossed oceans and deserts, joined the circus, and spoke at least half a dozen languages. The stories Jacob loved the most were the stories about Grandpa’s life in a Welsh children’s home. Grandpa claimed it was an enchanted place, on an island where the sun always shined and nobody ever got sick or died. The island was designed to keep him and his friends safe from the monsters who were after them for their mysterious and magical abilities. Jacob never doubted his grandpa’s colorful stories, after all, he had spooky photographs and crumbling, hand-written letters to their truth.

As he grew older, Jacob began to doubt the existence of children who could fly, or turn invisible, or lift boulders. He believed the stories were a coping mechanism for Grandpa to deal the tragedies of World War II. He asked for stories less and less, until Grandpa no longer told them. However, after a tragic family event, his grandfather’s cryptic last words, and a mysterious letter from a Miss Peregrine, Jacob decides to search for his grandfather’s childhood home and the truth. His journey leads him to an island off the coast of Wales, where he discovers a crumbling orphanage. As he explores the decrepit island and dilapidated halls, discovering more haunting photographs and dusty letters, he learns the children who once resided there were much more than peculiar: they may have been unsafe, banished to the island for a reason, and they are, impossibly, still alive.

Written around found vintage photographs that are interspersed throughout the text along with handwritten letters, Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children is filled with beautiful, haunting, richly detailed imagery and prose. The photographs and text together build a suspenseful story that alternates between fantasy and reality, past and present. Part coming-of-age story, part time-traveling fantasy, part mystery, part art project, but wonderfully strange and fully unique. Fantasy and thriller fans will enjoy this novel. Fans of David Lynch, Lemony Snickett, and Tim Burton will find this appealing as well.

Tim Burton will be directing the film adaptation, set for release in 2015. The sequel to the book, Hollow City, will be published in January 2014.

The call number for this book is PS 3618 .I3985 M57 2011 in the Juvenile section.

                               – Christina Nofziger, Access Services Specialist

Book Review Tuesday

Book Review: Prisoner of Tehran, by Marina Nemat

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Prisoner of Tehran is the gripping autobiography of Marina Nemat, a young, Christian, Iranian woman who survives two years of imprisonment during the Islamic Revolution. A story as honest and accessible, as it is heartbreaking and significant. Marina was 16 years old when she becomes a political prisoner – is blindfolded and locked up behind the towering walls of Evin Prison. Before the revolution, life was simple. School, church, and friends mixed in with trips to the beach, falling in love, and befriending the book seller on the corner.

Then the Shah fell.

Under the new Ayatollah, books were banned, the hijab became mandatory, and school subjects became subordinate to the study of the Koran., Marina once asked her teacher to get back to teaching math. When the answer was “Leave if you don’t like it”, that is what she did. Followed by her entire class.

This bravery was also her downfall. In January 1982 she was arrested for “crimes against the government”. She was brutally tortured and sentenced to die. Saved by a prison guard who wanted to marry her, she lived – but as a prisoner of a different kind. She was forced into a union with Ali who reminded her that as a prisoner and as a woman she had no rights.

As disturbing and insightful as much of the narrative was, part of the power of the book lies in her portrayal of her relationship with Ali. We – like Marina – want to hate him. He threatened her, and took away any hope for freedom she clung onto. But the more his character unfolds, the more we realize that Ali had good in him, he had depth, a story, and a family who loved him. He loved Marina in his own way, and loved her well. His family welcomed her into their fold like her own family never did. He ensured her deliverance from Evin. We see a character grow to question whether violence is the answer, whether perhaps love and compassion do more good. The evils he committed are never acquitted or fully forgiven, but he himself cannot be written off as evil. Good and evil is not as black and white as we would like to think.

Marina’s story explores all aspects of  human rights, what they are, how they are violated, and why they are important and must be respected. She explores the element of torture as a means of breaking the human spirit. She delves into the strength and good of humanity, present even when it seems completely lost.

Marina eventually found freedom and escaped to Canada where she now lives with her childhood sweetheart, and now husband Andre.

Book Review Tuesday

Book review for The Cat’s Table, by Michael Ondaatje

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In need of a little light summer reading, I picked up the Michael Ondaatje’s latest novel The Cat’s Table from the Popular Fiction Collection on the basis of several glowing recommendations. Ondaatje weaves together a beautiful narrative that boarders on the poetic in its language and imagery.

The tone is autobiographical, and though it is fictional, the story does borrow from elements of the author’s life. It follows 11-year-old protagonist, Michael, as he makes his way from his native Sri Lanka across the Indian Ocean, through the Suez Canal, and through the Mediterranean Sea to make a new life with his family in England. During the three weeks he is aboard the Oronsay, Michael is seated at the Cat’s Table during meal times, a table full of outcasts at the fringes of society. It is the table furthest away from the prestigious captain’s table. It is also here that he befriends Cassius and Rhamadin, fellow Sri Lankan school boys, who he goes on to form life long memories with.

The mystery of a prisoner unfolds as the book goes on – a prisoner with a mysterious past, only seen after everyone, except for the curious boys, has gone to bed. He emerges with shackles around his hands and feet, with guards at his side, and is allowed a nightly walk on the deck. As the narrative jumps between Michael’s young self on the ship and his adult self, established and settled in Canada, we learn how this slowly unfolding mystery ties people together, and has a lasting impact on the lives of the people we learn to know.

Ondaatje’s writing is much like the ship he writes about – it moves slowly, sometimes feeling like it has stopped moving altogether, caught up in dream like imagery and winding thought processes; but then one comes to the end, and realizes one has crossed oceans. The story is intricately and masterfully crafted; creating a tangible world out of the liminal space that transition creates, between one land and another, between chapters of life, between childhood and adulthood. Despite the storms, the crashing waves, and the navigation through misty canals, in some ways, it is the story of any state of change.

Looking for Library Course Reserves?

The library caters to many different patron needs, from research assistance, to reference sources, to inspiration for projects, to quiet study and reading spaces. One such need is for students to be able to access books that a professor has set aside for their course, often for library-use only. Our Course Reserves section is a way for more patrons to be able to access an item in high demand that is usually required reading or viewing material for their class.

So, how can you access a Reserve?

First, your professor must have placed the item on Course Reserve. He or she will let you know once the item is processed and available at the library. If you feel that there is a reason a book should be on Reserve for your class, discuss the possibility with your professor.

To find the call number for an item on Library Course Reserves, click on the Course Reserve link on the right side of the library’s homepage (click on images to expand them).

Select either “Instructor” or “Course” from the dropdown menu and type in the last name of the professor or the course number of the class with no spaces (i.e. UCOR1000).

Write down the call number for the item you would like to check out and bring it to the Circulation Desk. We can then pull the item for you and check it out for the limited check out period your professor has requested!

A few tips:

  • Do check the status of the item on the catalog (should say CHECK SHELF) to make sure that the item is not already checked out to another patron.
  • Do bring the call number with you to the Circulation Desk—the books are in order by their call numbers, so without this information we are unable to pull the item for you.
  • Do bring the book back in a timely manner and respect any library-use-only rules.

These last two weeks should fly by fast, and now you are equipped with knowledge on how to check out Library Course Reserves! Drop by this week to grab your resources and, while you are at it, take advantage of our later hours (we close at midnight from Sunday through Thursday) and make use of our designated Quiet Zone space in the Library Seminar Room.

-Melody Steiner, Access Services Technician/Reserves Specialist

Presidents Day booklist

The SPU Library hopes you enjoyed yesterday’s break from classes in honor of Presidents Day. While the rest of the campus was closed, the Library remained open from 3 – 11 p.m. to assist with your studying and research needs. Take a look at the booklist we compiled yesterday of items on our shelves that relate to United States presidents across the centuries:

Interested in learning more about the enigmatic William Henry Harrison, the only president to die after one short month in office? Try this book with library call number E392 .C65 2012.

 

In the wake of a series of movies featuring Abraham Lincoln, you might want to read more about his legacy before and after the Civil War. The call number for this book, written by Pulitzer Prize-winner James McPherson, is E457 .M46 2009.

 

Swartzenagger is not the first actor-turned-politician. Ever wonder how Ronald Reagan went from Hollywood actor to the presidency? This book, call number E877 .D54 2007, reviews the transition and explores the policies of our fortieth president.

 

Though this era had its controversies, Nixon is also known for ending U.S. involvement in Vietnam in 1973, launching the Environmental Protection Agency in 1970, and initiating a missile treaty with the Soviet Union. Read this biography with call number E855 .S63 1999.

 

The HBO miniseries highlights the tension between John Adams and his contemporaries as the country forged a path to independence, but it also allows us a glimpse into the affectionate relationship between the former president and the love of his life. This book, call number E322 .A4 2007, provides a deeper look into the world of John and Abigail Adams through their letters.

Born wealthy, Franklin D. Roosevelt may never have depended on a paycheck, but his charisma and determination in the wake of illness and subsequent lower body paralysis made him a man of the people during the Great Depression. Take a close look at his presidency in this biography, call number E807 .S58 2007.