Monday, October 10, 2016

'Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children' by Ransom Riggs


A mysterious island. An abandoned orphanage. A strange collection of curious photographs.

A horrific family tragedy sets sixteen-year-old Jacob journeying to a remote island off the coast of Wales, where he discovers the crumbling ruins of Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children. As Jacob explores its abandoned bedrooms and hallways, it becomes clear that the children were more than just peculiar. They may have been dangerous. They may have been quarantined on a deserted island for good reason. And somehow—impossible though it seems—they may still be alive.

A spine-tingling fantasy illustrated with haunting vintage photography, Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children will delight adults, teens, and anyone who relishes an adventure in the shadows.

Genre: YA fantasy adventure, best seller, books which became movies

I saw this book in K-Mart and knew it was being released as a movie soon, so made an impulse buy. Wow, it blew me away in many ways. To start with, it's a sort of cross between Peter Pan and Groundhog Day, but unique in its own way, with the help of 50 very creepy vintage photos used as text illustrations. Here's a quick rundown of what happens.

Jacob Portman's grandfather always told him stories about a strange orphanage-like place he attended when he was young. Everyone assumes his tales are made-up, but then he's savaged by a fierce monster which only Jacob manages to glimpse. With his dying breath, Abe Portman gives his grandson a cryptic plea to discover his old home and speak to the proprietress, because the safety of the world might be at stake. Jacob's parents believe he has PTSD and refer him to a psychiatrist. He even begins to doubt the evidence of his own senses, but finds a way at last to track down his grandpa's past.

Miss Peregrine's children take giftedness to whole new level! Maybe her own special talent is up there with the best of them. 'No one here is embarrassed of their gift,' is her firm rule, and the non-judgmental, all inclusive generosity of her establishment is fun to read. There are kids with potentially useful gifts, like invisible Millard, strong girl Bronwyn and Emma with her fire hands. But then there are odder ones, like Hugh , who has bees swarming inside of him, and Claire, with mouths on both sides of her head. They are all just part of a happy gang thrown together as family.

I found these children so compelling and lovable. Although they know the world would consider them freaks, they are all just innocent, affectionate kids who respond to friendliness and demonstrate team work when necessary. We can't help wondering about Jacob himself. Does he have to have a special gift to even manage to get there? He's told it's the same gift as his grandfather's, and we're left to figure out what that means for a while.

Manipulation of time in stories is always a drawcard for me, and the time loop Miss Peregrine manages to keep her charges safe is fascinating. So are the deeper questions it raises. Is it possible to get sick of perfection if you experience too much? The restrictions of science prevent them from leaving without dire consequences even if they want to. Is a pleasant, heavenly, predictable prison still a prison nonetheless? There are so many dystopian novels around, and this one is sort of utopian in its own way.

However, evil forces are at large, based on the same motives they always have been, excessive ambition, power hungry pride and a thirst for immortality. Jacob finds out that he arrived in the nick of time, to offer his assistance to Miss Peregrine and her peculiar children.

In the interview at the end, I found out that the author Ransom Riggs shares one of my interests, which is old photos. I like to stare at them with a surreal feeling of wishing I knew all about the subject. He actually collects them from old antique shops, and chose 50 of them to build his story around. An interesting way of getting inspiration.

I've also reviewed the sequels, Hollow City and Library of Souls.

4.5 stars.


  1. This was a good book, I agree. If you continue the series, the second is meh...typical second in a series...and the third I thought the funniest, in a Monty Python kind of way. :) The concept of using photos is fantastic, although I'm not sure how well it translated to the audiobook and even graphic novel versions.

    1. Hi Cristina, I wondered if that might be the case with the first sequel. I was thinking how that sometimes happens with the second in a series, especially when the first has done all the work of setting up scenes and characters. Sometimes when all it has to do is carry on, a follow-on story needs to make sure it has enough to carry on with.
      Have you seen the movie? It's only come out this last week down here, and we hated all the changes to the plot they made.

  2. Great review! I'll put the book on the TBR pile but I might give the film a miss.

    1. Hi Rhonda, I think the film is well worth missing, unless you see it first before reading the book, maybe. However, if you do get around to reading the book after seeing the film, you'll have a big laugh then. I'd recommend the book over the movie every time.