Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children (Miss Peregrine’s Peculiar Children)
I had just come to accept that my life would be ordinary when extraordinary things began to
happen. The first of these came as a terrible shock and, like anything that changes you
forever, split my life into halves: Before and After. Like many of the extraordinary things to
come, it involved my grandfather, Abraham Portman.
Growing up, Grandpa Portman was the most fascinating person I knew. He had lived in an
orphanage, fought in wars, crossed oceans by steamship and deserts on horseback, performed
in circuses, knew everything about guns and self-defense and surviving in the wilderness, and
spoke at least three languages that weren’t English. It all seemed unfathomably exotic to a kid
who’d never left Florida, and I begged him to regale me with stories whenever I saw him. He
always obliged, telling them like secrets that could be entrusted only to me.
When I was six I decided that my only chance of having a life half as exciting as Grandpa
Portman’s was to become an explorer. He encouraged me by spending afternoons at my side
hunched over maps of the world, plotting imaginary expeditions with trails of red pushpins and
telling me about the fantastic places I would discover one day. At home I made my ambitions
known by parading around with a cardboard tube held to my eye, shouting, “Land ho!” and
“Prepare a landing party!” until my parents shooed me outside. I think they worried that my
grand father would infect me with some incurable dreaminess from which I’d never recover—
that these fantasies were somehow inoculating me against more practical ambitions—so one
day my mother sat me down and explained that I couldn’t become an explorer because
everything in the world had already been discovered. I’d been born in the wrong century, and I
I felt even more cheated when I realized that most of Grandpa Portman’s best stories
couldn’t possibly be true. The tallest tales were always about his childhood, like how he was
born in Poland but at twelve had been shipped off to a children’s home in Wales. When I would
ask why he had to leave his parents, his answer was always the same: because the monsters
were after him. Poland was simply rotten with them, he said.
“What kind of monsters?” I’d ask, wide-eyed. It became a sort of routine. “Awful hunchedover
ones with rotting skin and black eyes,” he’d say. “And they walked like this!” And he’d
shamble after me like an old-time movie monster until I ran away laughing.
Every time he described them he’d toss in some lurid new detail: they stank like putrefying
trash; they were invisible except for their shadows; a pack of squirming tentacles lurked inside
their mouths and could whip out in an instant and pull you into their powerful jaws. It wasn’t
long before I had trouble falling asleep, my hyperactive imagination transforming the hiss of
tires on wet pavement into labored breathing just outside my window or shadows under the
door into twisting gray-black tentacles. I was scared of the monsters but thrilled to imagine my
grandfather battling them and surviving to tell the tale.
More fantastic still were his stories about life in the Welsh children’s home. It was an
enchanted place, he said, designed to keep kids safe from the monsters, on an island where
the sun shined every day and nobody ever got sick or died. Everyone lived together in a big
house that was protected by a wise old bird—or so the story went. As I got older, though, I
began to have doubts.
“What kind of bird?” I asked him one afternoon at age seven, eyeing him skeptically across
the card table where he was letting me win at Monopoly.
“A big hawk who smoked a pipe,” he said.
“You must think I’m pretty dumb, Grandpa.”………………………..
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