Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs, Quirk Books, Philadelphia, 2011, ISBN: 978-1-59474-476-1
Jacob Portman always thought the stories his grandfather told when he was growing up were too strange to be true. Even when his grandfather showed him pictures of the various children he grew up with in an orphanage on Cairnholm Island, he had a hard time believing him. There was the story of the levitating girl. The boy with bees living inside him. The girl with the mouth on the back her head. And monsters. According to Jacob’s grandfather, he spent the majority of World War II fighting monsters. Jacob always figured he was talking about the Nazis until one day when his grandfather is attacked and killed by a creature with razor sharp teeth and tentacles coming out of his mouth. Jacob reaches his grandfather just in time to hear his dying words, “Go to the island. You’ll be safe there.”
When Jacob tries to tell his family what he saw and heard, they all think he’s a little crazy. They send him to a psychiatrist who recommends visiting the island as part of Jacob’s healing process. Once there, Jacob learns that the children his grandfather told him about are very real, and still living in a time loop in September 3, 1940. He meets Miss Peregrine and her orphanage of peculiar children, each with his or her own unique and strange talent. He also meets the strange and horrible hollowgasts, who feed on the peculiar children and want to capture Miss Peregrine to help them with a terrible experiment. Jacob must draw upon his own unique and peculiar strengths in order to save the orphanage and the world from a horrible fate.
Miss Peregrine’s Home For Peculiar Children is a richly imaginative book. Interlaced through the story are a variety of vintage photographs of the peculiar children, which help transport the reader back to the earlier time of the novel and give the story a haunting atmosphere. I assumed the photos had been manipulated to make them so eerie, but the author’s note at the end of the book claims that they are largely unaltered.
Jacob Portman is a spoiled but sympathetic character when we first meet him. After his grandfather dies, Jacob assumes he’s going crazy until he learns the truth about his grandfather’s life. When he realizes he may be responsible for endangering the lives of the orphans, he becomes a stronger, more heroic character, willing to sacrifice himself to help others. An interesting complication that arises over the course of the story is his crush on his grandfather’s former girlfriend (because of the time loop, she hasn’t aged past her teenage years).
Like Harry Potter, Green’s book involves a boy discovering a secret world and learning that he is not as ordinary as he used to believe. Unlike Harry Potter, however, Miss Peregrine’s Home For Peculiar Children, is a darker, more violent story, more appropriate for teens than young children. The photographs of the children and monsters are creepy and the deaths are pretty gruesome. (A ten-year-old reader I know stopped reading the book at night because it made it hard for him to sleep.) For those readers who enjoy Stephen King’s earlier novels, the book is a page-turner.
An invisible boy. A girl who floats. A boy with bees living inside him. What sounds like a circus act are just a few of the children living in Miss Peregrine’s home for peculiar children. When Jacob Portman discovers the orphanage may be in danger from the same monsters that killed his grandfather, he must summon all his courage (and peculiar talents) to rescue the children and possibly save the world from destruction.
Information about the author
From Ransom Rigg’s biography on Amazon.com, we learn that “Ransom Riggs grew up in Florida, where he spent his formative years making silly movies with his friends in their various backyards, snorkeling, and complaining about the heat. He studied English at Kenyon College and film at the University of Southern California. He is married. He has a cat. He lives in Los Angeles. He makes films you can watch on his YouTube page: http://www.youtube.com/ransriggs. He enjoys traveling to exotic lands and complaining about the heat.”
Young Adult Fiction
How do the photographs add our understanding of the characters?
Could you make the same decision Jacob makes at the end of the novel?
Is Jacob and Emma’s relationship healthy?
Reading Level / Interest Age
Grade 9 and up
Some scenes of violence involving monsters may be scary for younger readers. The description is not too graphic and the book was placed on many “Top 10” lists for 2011.
Why did I include this title?
I had seen Miss Peregrine’s Home For Peculiar Children on a lot of “Best of” lists and was interested in checking it out. When I flipped through the book at the bookstore, I was immediately intrigued by the photographs included in the novel and loved how they added to my understanding of the characters and setting.