Miss Peregine’s Home for Peculiar Children hits theaters this week, and it will be interesting to see how it measures up to the book. It looks cool– click here for a link to the trailer. For me, the letters and the real photographs used, and the scrapbook-type format, were much of what made it intriguing, and I can’t imagine how that will translate to the screen. But the trailers look pretty awesome, so even if the movie doesn’t turn out to be just like the book, perhaps it will stand well on its own.
Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children is far from the first book to be set in a school or home intended for particularly unusual children, though– some really excellent books for middle grade and teen readers exist in this category. Here are a few you might check out.
Down a Dark Hall by Lois Duncan
Kit Gordy is attending an extremely exclusive, isolated, boarding school. Spoiler: it’s also haunted by ghosts who take possession of the students to create amazing works of art. Nothing could possibly go wrong here, right? This is a good one for tweens and middle schoolers, although, in my opinion, you don’t outgrow Lois Duncan.
The Cavendish Home for Boys and Girls by Claire LeGrand
This is a disturbed fairy tale of a book. Victoria, a perfect 12 year old in every way, living in a picture-perfect community, has chosen just one friend, the very imperfect, messy, and musical Lawrence. When Lawrence disappears, Victoria goes on a search for him, uncovering some very unpleasant things. As more children disappear, and creepy creatures start invading, Victoria becomes even more determined to solve the mystery. She discovers that the orphanage across the street is actually a deeply disturbing, magically operated facility with the mission of turning all the imperfect children that have disappeared, including Lawrence, into identical, perfect children, Stepford-style. Mrs. Cavendish, the headmistress of the school, is truly diabolical, and the school itself is creepy, disquieting, and disorienting. This one is not for the faint of stomach, but people who liked Coraline or the more nightmarish writing of Roald Dahl might very well like this. This is Gothic children’s horror at its best– highly recommended, but for no younger than age 10.
Contains: body horror, cannibalism, insect hordes, torture.
Matilda by Roald Dahl
Speaking of Roald Dahl, Matilda is surely every book lover’s favorite story of a peculiar child. While her school isn’t specifically for peculiar children, the people who work there certainly qualify as peculiar, especially the headmistress. You can’t help cheering for Matilda as she uses her unusual powers to defeat the sadistic Miss Trunchbull.
The Grounding of Group 6 by Julian F. Thompson
What’s a parent to do when a child repeatedly breaks the rules, gets thrown out of school again, or breaks that last straw? You send them to the school of last resort– Coldbrook County School– and then never worry about them again. That’s right, the school will take care of your problem child for you, in a permanent way, while the students are out on retreat in a wooded area full of sinkholes. Nothing supernatural in this book, all the horror is in the way humans treat each other.
I’d wait until high school to read this one– it’s got some harrowing moments. There’s also an implied sexual relationship between one of the students, in her late teens, and her “counselor”, who is in his twenties.
A Great and Terrible Beauty by Libba Bray
After the death of her mother, Gemma Doyle is sent from her home in India to a young ladies’ boarding school in Victorian England. Gemma has visions, and her unusual upbringing and uncanny knowledge mean a chilly reception from the other girls. Gemma learns to control the visions so she can visit magical realms. As she makes friends, she involves them in her journeys, but while the girls enjoy the power and escape they have in the realms, Gemma learns there is also a darker side. This is the first book in a trilogy: the other two books are Rebel Angels and The Sweet Far Thing. Recommended for middle school and up.