Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs
Growing up in Florida, Author Ransom Riggs’ grandmother often dragged him along with her to swap meets and secondhand shops. There he was enchanted with boxes of old snapshots. His attraction to the sometimes haunting photographs eventually catalyzed the production of this first novel. The book contains about 50 vintage photographs, around and upon which he built the narrative. The pictures add an eerie weirdness to the reading experience.
The story is told from the point of view of Jacob Portman, a lonely 16-year-old young man, working a meaningless job in his family’s drug-store chain. His wealthy socialite mother is an heiress to the chain, but his father spends his time drinking, bird watching, and supposedly working on a book. Jacob has a very strong relationship with his grandfather, a WWII survivor, who tells him remarkable stories of the orphanage where he lived as a child and about the intriguing people who lived there with him. He shows Jacob seemingly impossible photographs of the orphans, such as a little girl levitating off the ground, a scrawny boy holding a huge boulder over his head, and a kid with two mouths – one in the front and one in the back of his head. Headmistress Miss Peregrine runs the orphanage.
As Jacob grows older, he begins to doubt the validity of these stories and photographs. That is, until he witnesses his grandfather suddenly killed by a horrible creature “with eyes that swim in dark liquid…its mouth hinged open grotesquely so that a mass of long eel-like tongues could wiggle out.” Then, he immediately begins to wonder if they were true after all. When Jacob conveys what he saw to them, his parents naturally think he is having a stress reaction, so they send him to a therapist.
With his grandfather’s last words still resounding in his ears – “Find the bird. In the loop. On the other side of the old man’s grave” – Jacob travels with his bird-watching father, and his therapist’s blessing, to the remote Welsh island where his grandfather grew up. What do they find? Are the grandfather’s stories and photographs authentic?
Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children incorporates time travel and an elaborately imagined alternate reality. The story combines history, fantasy, teenage angst, and a little love interest thrown in – a perfect combination for a young-adult best seller. The author studied film making and the writing is very visual. It is no surprise that the book is being made into a movie to be released sometime next year.
All in all, this book is for anyone who is willing to embark on an unpredictable reading adventure. It will feel like stepping through a secret door, knowing that there might be danger on the other side, but ready to take the risk of discovery.
Watch Bryan and his twin 15-year-old daughters Adrienne and Miriam on WZZM Channel 13’s “Take Five” morning show at 9:00 a.m. on Monday, June 1, discussing Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children. Join the monthly book club at 6:00 p.m., Monday, June 1 at the Book Nook & Java Shop in downtown Montague for refreshments, snacks, beverages, camaraderie, and discussion; of course, everyone (including young adults) is welcome, and the Club meets all year long.