The Peculiar

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The international bestseller and debut novel by teenage author and classical musician Stefan Bachmann is part murder mystery, part gothic fantasy, part clockwork adventure. Best-selling author Rick Riordan said of The Peculiar, "Stefan Bachmann breathes fresh life into ancient magic."

Don't get yourself noticed and you won't get yourself hanged. In the faery slums of Bath, Bartholomew and his little sister Hettie live by these words. Bartholomew and Hettie are Peculiars, and neither faeries nor humans want anything to do with them. But when Peculiars start showing up in London murdered and covered with red tattoos, Bartholomew breaks all the rules and gets himself noticed. Full of magic, dazzling inventions, and intriguing characters such as Mr. Jelliby and Lord Lickerish, this story of friendship, bravery, and nonstop action adventure was hailed by best-selling author Christopher Paolini as "swift, strong, and entertaining. Highly recommended." The Peculiar ends with a spectacular cliff-hanger, and the story concludes in The Whatnot.

Curriculet Details
83 Questions
87 Annotations
3 Quizzes

This free digital curriculum for middle school students contains interactive videos exploring elements of plot and figurative language, as well as annotations describing story locations, highlighting aspects of the genre, and asking students to make textual connections. Students will explore the themes of sacrifice and self-confidence. The Common Core aligned questions, answers and quizzes in this free online unit will increase student engagement in the book while supporting reading comprehension.

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The author catches our attention in the very first lines of the novel by using a type of figurative language called a simile. Learn more about similes and metaphors here.  (This annotation contains a video)
Bath is a medium-sized city in the southwest of England. It is called Bath because it has hot spring waters that people used for bathing. Directly across the island to the east is the biggest and capital city, London. (This annotation contains an image)
Parliament is the governing body of England. 
In this context, the word "fay" is a form of the word "faeries." 
Why were the English finally able to beat the faeries? 
Learn about foreshadowing by watching the video below. What might the last paragraph in the Prologue foreshadow about the main problem in the rest of the story? (This annotation contains a video)
The author, Stefan Bachmann, composed an original score for his book. Listen to part of the introduction here.  (This annotation contains a video)

CHAPTER I The Most Prettiest Thing

Why does the lady in plum-colored clothes catch Bartholomew's attention? 
What type of figurative language does the author use to describe Hettie's eyes? 
A bellows is the machine with the accordion-like pouch on the outside of the chimney below. A worker would push up and down on the bellows to force air into the chimney to make the fire burn really hot. When the fire is hot enough, it can be used to melt metal. If you have a fireplace at home, you may have a smaller, hand-held bellows. (This annotation contains an image)
How do Bartholomew and his mother differ in their opinion of getting a domesticated faery? 
The phrase "Don't get yourself noticed, don't let them see" is repeated often in the story.  What has Bartholomew done so far to prevent himself from getting noticed by others? 
How do you react when you think your parent is being unfair? 
How would an observer know that Bartholomew's friend was a faery? 
The beginning of a story is called the exposition, where the author reveals the characters, time, and place for the action of the story.  What have we learned so far about those elements? 

CHAPTER II A Privy Deception

This is the current House of Parliament in London on the bank of the River Thames.  (This annotation contains an image)
Here is what an old-fashioned cravat might have looked like. (This annotation contains an image)
How does Mr. Jelliby's life differ from Bartholomew's? 
The author uses what type of figurative language to describe the gnome? 
In this sentence, what does the word "barreled" most likely mean? 
What clues tell you that Mr. Lickerish doesn't like Mr. Jelliby very much? 
A faun is a mythical creature that is half-human and half-goat. Here is one artist's version of a faun. (This annotation contains an image)
Scotland Yard is the name for the London police force. This is their original headquarters, also on the River Thames. (This annotation contains an image)
The metaphor "Lord Harkness's voice was acid" means that he 
When using the verb "hang" to mean "attached from above without support below," the past tense is "hung." For example, you would write "A cloud of gloom hung over him." However, when "hang" refers to being killed by hanging, the correct past tense is "hanged." 
The Battle of Waterloo was fought in 1815 between the French army, led by the self-proclaimed French Emperor Napoleon Bonaparte, and the English army and allies, under the command of the Duke of Wellington. The English and their allies soundly defeated Napoleon, and put an end to his quest for domination in Europe. This is one artist's image of the battle.  (This annotation contains an image)
Why don't the faeries just leave England and go home if they're being treated so badly? 
In this chapter, we learn that the main external conflict of the story (see video in previous annotation) will probably be 
This is the part of the story where the conflict begins. View the following video to learn about the two main types of conflict. (This annotation contains a video)

CHAPTER III Black Wings and Wind

What does this personification mean? 
A kelpy (or kelpie) is traditionally described as a mythical water horse with skin as smooth and cold as a seal's and a curly blue mane, dripping with water. They were said to lure people into riding on their backs, which would then turn so sticky the people could not get off. Then the kelpie would drag the rider down into the water and eat them.  (This annotation contains a video)
What are three ways the movie version of a kelpie differs from the traditional explanation? 
The image below is of a "real" fairy ring. A fairy ring is a naturally occurring ring or arc of mushrooms. (This annotation contains an image)
What personality trait of Bartholomew's is revealed by his reaction to this sudden change in location? 
List four details the author uses to build suspense in the last three pages of this chapter. 

CHAPTER IV Nonsuch House

What details in the first paragraph help the author create a dark, almost scary, mood? 
Cogs and pistons are usually found in old-fashioned clocks or watches. View the short video below to see how they work together. The cog is the wheel with a jagged edge, and the piston is the connecting bar. (This annotation contains a video)
The author uses several onomatopoeias in this paragraph to help the reader understand the setting. Watch the video below to learn more about onomatopoeias. Then see if you can find 2 onomatopoeias in this paragraph. (This annotation contains a video)
Can you see more onomatopoeias in this sentence? 
When the author describes the woman's skirts as "billowing out behind her like wings," what does that mean? 
This is a picture of the foods offered in a typical English tea. There is usually a mixture of sweet and savory items, plus tea with milk, sugar, or lemon. (This annotation contains an image)
Based on Mr. Jelliby's reaction to the perfume burners, what might a "water closet" be? 
Mr. Jelliby realizes that "he wasn't looking for a privy anymore."  Why does he continue searching the house? 
What was happening to Bartholomew at the same time that Mr. Jelliby was trying to get into the locked room? 

CHAPTER V To Invite a Faery

Based on context clues, what does Bartholomew's mother mean when she says that "he's amnesiagactical"? 
How did Bartholomew get these marks? What happened to him the night before? 
What does the author mean by the description "the air was thick as blankets"? 
"Lye" is a chemical Bartholomew's mother uses to wash clothes. It is very harsh and causes skin to get extremely dry, red, and cracked under long exposure.  
How do you know that Bartholomew has been planning to summon a faery for a long time? 
This is an image of a cloven hoof print. Notice that it looks like the creature has two big toes.  (This annotation contains an image)


Which of the following details shows how upset Mr. Jelliby is at being thought a spy? 
"Semiramide" is an opera about a Babylonian queen who wants to get rid of her husband and make the man she loves the new king. However, things don't go as planned, and she ends up getting killed herself. This is an image of Semiramide in a performance from the Metropolitan Opera in New York.  (This annotation contains an image)
Mr. Jelliby is giving in to his fears about what other people think of him. There is an emerging theme in the story about having confidence in yourself, regardless of what others think. 
How does the author build suspense in this paragraph? 
Examine the cover page of the story. That is a picture of this clockwork sparrow. 
Mr. Jelliby learning that Mr. Lickerish is personally involved in the deaths of the changelings adds tension to the                conflict. 
The phrase "beyond a shadow of a doubt" is a type of figurative language called an "idiom." Idioms are expressions where the meaning of the individual words is totally different from the meaning of the saying as a whole. Idioms are the most difficult part of a foreign language to learn. In this case, "beyond a shadow of a doubt" means that absolutely no doubt remains. 
Chapters 1-6 


What has caused such a change in how Bartholomew behaves around his sister? 
What does Bartholomew think has probably happened? For whom has he been waiting? 
What is meant by the highlighted simile? 
Leaving "in a pine box" means the young man had died and was taken away in a cheap casket. 
According to the highlighted phrase, what happens when Bartholomew's mother enters his room? 
We know there have been 9 changelings murdered so far.  How is the tension in the story built up by this short, mysterious response to Bartholomew's question about the marks on his skin? 

CHAPTER VIII To Catch a Bird

In this sentence, the word tattoo means 
"Guv'nor" is British slang for "governor." It is an informal way to address an important-looking man. 
This is a picture of Trafalgar Square in the real London. (This annotation contains an image)
Why is Mr. Jelliby sitting in this coffee shop? 
Why doesn't Mr. Jelliby just drive his car to Westminster? 
In a British fox hunt, the participants dress up in proper riding attire, like the fancy red coats and riding breeches you see below. Whoever is hosting the hunt releases a fox on a large piece of land. Once the fox has run away, all the guests get on horses and follow a pack of dogs that is chasing the fox. Sometimes the fox is just cornered and captured, but sometimes it is killed. Many people nowadays think fox hunting is a cruel sport, while others say it is a meaningful English tradition. Fox hunting was outlawed in Britain in 2005. (This annotation contains an image)


What personality trait does Bartholomew reveal by his plans to tackle the problem of the faery? 
Remember that Bartholomew and Hettie are supposed to stay out of sight so people don't try to hurt them for being changelings. Why do you think their mother invites Agnes over if she knows it means locking her children in a room for the evening? 
We've heard Bartholomew repeat this phrase many times in the story. Do you think staying hidden has worked out well for Bartholomew so far? 
Why does the author tell this part of the story from inside the locked room with Bartholomew but still let the reader hear parts of what's going on in the kitchen between the two women? 
A potbellied stove has a rounded middle or "belly" section, as in the image below. (This annotation contains an image)
Make a prediction: why would Bartholomew put layers of ash in these places? What is he hoping will happen? 
So Bartholomew was trying to see where the raggedy man would go by putting down a layer of wet ash. Was your prediction correct? 

CHAPTER X The Mechanicalchemist

What phrases does Aunt Dorcas use to describe Melusine's elopment that tell us she approves of their decision? 
Notice that the time of the story has shifted; the author is now using a flashback. Watch the video below to learn more about why flashbacks are important story telling techniques. (This annotation contains a video)
What phrase does the author use to signal the end of the flashback? 
This is the original King's Cross station in London. It's the same place Harry Potter boarded the Hogwart's Express. (This annotation contains an image)
Which phrase from the highlighted passage is a simile? 
A sovereign is a coin with the picture of the English king or queen on it, as in the image below. (This annotation contains an image)
What does the phrase "this part of London, nobody talks but the face on the coin" mean? 

CHAPTER XI Child Number Ten

Where had Bartholomew heard the voice before? 
What happened to interrupt the messenger birds of the Lord Chancellor? 
What does Bartholomew's fantasy about being Child Number Ten tell us about him? 
Why does Bartholomew decide to turn himself over to the Lord Chancellor? 
What phrases in this passage are used to build tension? 
Why does Bartholomew's view on going to the Lord Chancellor change so drastically? 

CHAPTER XII The House and the Anger

Do you think running away was a wise choice? 
Which of the following phrases is a simile? 
What internal conflict is Mr. Jelliby experiencing in this passage? 
Why does Mr. Jelliby call out all of these directions? What does he think is going to happen? 
The highlighted phrase is an example of 
"Holding your tongue" is another example of an idiom. Think about an idiom this way. If you drew a picture of the saying "hold your tongue," you'd probably see a person with their hand grabbing their tongue. That is totally different than the figurative meaning, which is "to stay quiet." 
Whta is the first sign Mr. Jelliby gets that something is wrong? 
How would you react if you woke up in the middle of the night and your house was attacking you? 
The Venus de Milo is a famous ancient Greek sculpture. It originally had arms, but they were broken and lost after the statue was discovered. (This annotation contains an image)
Chapters 7-12 
How have the events in Mr. Jelliby's house contributed to the suspense of the story? 

CHAPTER XIII Out of the Alley

Why do you think everyone is still asleep? 
Who is the gentleman who rescues Bartholomew from the peddler? 
Have you read other stories that include spells which bring objects to life? 
What is happening to Bartholomew while Mr. Jelliby is journeying to Bath? 
This is an artist's image of the steam train. (This annotation contains an image)
How does Bartholomew not meet Mr. Jelliby's expectations of what a changeling should be? 
Why doesn't Bartholomew go to school? 

CHAPTER XIV The Ugliest Thing

If you were Bartholomew, what would you be thinking about Mr. Jelliby at this point? 
Why is Melusine surprised to see Mr. Jelliby? 
In this context, the word bearings probably means 
In this sentence, the word "rent" has nothing to do with payment to a landlord. A synonym would be "tore." 
What does it mean that "Bartholomew, the lady, the officers, all stood as if turned to stone?" 
Watch the video below about "theme." Considering the risky actions and sincere motivations of Mr. Jelliby and Bartholomew, what theme do you see so far in the story? (This annotation contains a video)
This is an example of a type of figurative language called "hyperbole." Watch the video below to learn more. (This annotation contains a video)
Do you think it's fair that Melusine will probably be permanently injured? 
What might this dark mass be? 
What is significant about Dr. Harrow's lips not moving, even though he was just speaking to Mr. Jelliby? 

CHAPTER XV Goblin Market

This is an important explanation of the external conflict. 
How is New Bath different from Old Bath? 
What might Mr. Jelliby be thinking in these strange surroundings? 
Why does Mr. Jelliby tell Bartholomew to ask for directions instead of doing it himself? 
This is a play on the hyperbole we use when we think something is too expensive. We say it "costs and arm and a leg." In this case, if you're a faery, that's no longer a figurative expression! 
Why does Mr. Jelliby keep calling Bartholomew "boy"? What does it show about how Mr. Jelliby sees Bartholomew? 
Why would Mr. Jelliby not eat his whole pie? 

CHAPTER XVI Greenwitch

The phrase "in the blink of an eye" is what type of figurative language? 
Why would the map from the Goblin Market have place names so different from what Mr. Jelliby knows? 
Are Mr. Jelliby's fingers actually running? No. This is a type of figurative language called "personification." Learn more about personification here. (This annotation contains a video)
Bath is the southern part of England, while Leeds is about 200 miles straight north. Can you see both on the map? (This annotation contains an image)
This is an artist's vision of the wagon in the woods. (This annotation contains an image)
Provide three details from the text to indicate that the old faery is acting suspiciously. 
This is a very important plot point. Up until now, the reader hasn't known why Mr. Lickerish was involved in the kidnapping of the changelings. We still don't know exactly what changelings have to do with the faery door. 
Do you remember that Bartholomew saw one of these creatures in the Bazaar in the Goblin Market? 
What type of figurative language is shown in the highlighted text? 
What does the highlighted personification mean? 
From where did the greenwitch get the guns? 
While Bartholomew and Mr. Jelliby were questioning her, the faery acted meek and sorrowful. Is she really upset at what Mr. Lickerish is doing? How do you know? 

CHAPTER XVII The Cloud That Hides the Moon

Jack Box possessed Melusine and made her do evil things. Why should he care what happens to her? 
What differences does Bartholomew notice between London and Bath? 
Watch the video below about "theme." Considering the risky actions and heart-felt motivations of Mr. Jelliby and Bartholomew, what theme do you see so far in the story? (This annotation contains a video)
The highlighted phrase is an example of 
This is one artist's vision of what an airship like Mr. Lickerish's might look like. It has a zeppelin-style top, which supports a ship-like living area below.  (This annotation contains an image)
In this context, the word "tolled" has nothing to do with damage caused by a disaster or making a payment. Mr. Jelliby's voice is being compared to the tolling or ringing of a bell as it echoes in the empty space of the warehouse. 
How has Mr. Jelliby changed over the course of the story?  Consider his behaviors, attitudes, and actions. 
Bartholomew shows that he's willing to sacrifice himself for the safety of his sister. 
Once again, the story lines of Bartholomew and Mr. Jelliby go their separate ways. 
The phrase "it was just as cold as the wind" is an example of 
How does the interior of the airship differ from the warehouse below? 
By ending the chapter with this startling revelation about Hettie's role in Mr. Lickerish's plan, the author is signalling to the reader that the __________ of the story is just ahead. 


For what purpose do you think the shoes were used? 
This paragraph truly shows how much Mr. Jelliby has changed. At the start of the story, he was an unambitious, not particularly talented politician who was content buying chocolates for his wife and sleeping until noon. Now here he is hanging from a platform rising hundreds of feet in the air, trying to save a changeling child. 
The phrase "clanged shut" is an example of 
Now we understand why the butler and Mr. Lickerish were so upset that day when Mr. Jelliby wandered off from the tea party. 
Notice that the timing of the scenes (switching from Mr. Jelliby to Bartholomew) is overlapping. 
Bartholomew's actions here show that he is 
Which of the following types of figurative language are not used in the highlighted sentence? 
Watch this short clip from a Harry Potter movie, then answer the question that follows. (This annotation contains a video)
How does the Harry Potter polyjuice transformation differ from the glamour spell used by Jack Box? 
Do you with Bartholomew's assessment that Jack Box and he are similar? 
What can you infer that Mr. Lickerish wants his butler to do to Jack Box? 
Why did the rat faery throw himself off the airship? 
Remember the imp Mr. Lickerish created out of the glass of milk and apple seeds? 
The highlighted simile means that  
Notice how the author describes this moment, almost as if it's happening in slow motion. This is the kind of writing that makes readers feel like we're in the story. 
Do you trust the advice of the milk imp? 
This is the climax of the internal conflict, where we don't know if Bartholomew will give in to his desire to save his sister or if the larger need of saving the city will win out. 
These are very important revelations for Bartholomew's character. He's been struggling with feeling like an outcast the whole book. 
Would you have been able to put your brother or sister into harm's way like this? 
Which of the following words from this paragraph are onomatopoeias? 
This scene is the climax of the                     conflict, where we don't know if Mr. Lickerish's plan is going to be successful, or if Bartholomew will thwart him. 
Most of this story is told by alternating the view points of Bartholomew and Mr. Jelliby.  Was that effective?  What was gained or lost by the technique? 
Chapters 13-18 
This novel belongs to a type of science fiction known as "steampunk." This means the story seems to be taking place a hundred years before electronics or even electricity was invented, but there are lots of creative machines that run on steam power. If you enjoy this type of setting, try reading books by H. G. Wells, Jules Verne, Philip Pullman, or Scott Westerfeld. If you want to read more about Mr. Jelliby and Bartholomew, look for the next book by Stefan Bachmann, titled "The Whatnot." You can read an excerpt of it by clicking on the image below. (This annotation has embedded rich content)